It's a bleak day for us all, America

Today, Jan. 20, is a bleak day in America. We will reaffirm to ourselves and the world that we're really average, from the top down, and that we're damn proud of it. We don't want to aim too high; greatness takes a lot of trying. Besides, who needs real accomplishment when we have nifty slogans instead? Today we're ... let's see, what is it? Oh yeah--"Celebrating Freedom, Honoring Service." Makes me feel all tingly.

Today we inaugurate George W. Bush as president of the United States. Again. Historians in the 22nd century probably would have been able to go their entire lives trying to figure out how he did it even once; that he did it twice will be beyond the scope of anybody's understanding. Some guy will probably get his doctorate for espousing the theory that in the early 21st century, a majority of Americans wanted a president whose ass they could kick in a spelling contest.

It's probably asking too much for there to be a repeat of Ronald Reagan's second inauguration, when the weather in D.C. was so bad that they had to cancel the parade. All those fresh-faced band kids who had bused in from all over the country had to stay in their hotels, because officials were afraid their lips would freeze onto the tuba, and then they wouldn't be able to make out on the bus ride home.

With my luck, it will be 65 degrees and sunny, so Bush and his wife can walk down Pennsylvania Avenue, ducking the eggs. I really shouldn't begrudge him his strut. It is, after all, the first time he's ever been elected president. (He wasn't going to walk the last time; he was going to have Antonin Scalia, et al, carry him atop their shoulders.)

A guy I know from college e-mailed me and asked if I wanted to go to one of the peripheral inaugural balls. Any ball that would have me must be being held in Scranton. I thought he was joking, so I e-mailed him back. He said he was serious; he's plugged in to the Republican Party elite somehow. And to think that he and I actually used to play basketball together.

I politely declined after having a flashback to one of Reagan's inaugural balls, during which it was announced that the night's "soulful entertainment" was provided by ... The Fifth Dimension! Now, I'm as much a fan of Marilyn McCoo as the next red-blooded American male, but soulful, that group is not.

I mentioned that to my friend, who replied, "Well, they did sing 'Stoned Soul Picnic.'" Which was written by Laura Nyro, who is rarely mentioned in the same sentence with Otis Redding or Holland-Dozier-Holland.

Anyway, my friend said that it was time for me to grow up and join the winning team. I fell back on a sports analogy and said that when you take a whuppin', you're supposed to go back and practice harder and promise yourself that you'll never take another whuppin' like that.

He said, "So you're just going to be stubborn and stick to your old ideas and end up being the last Democrat in America?"

If being right on Iraq and on the (ahem) weapons of mass destruction and tax breaks for the rich and powerful means that I'm going to be the last Democrat in America, I can live with that.

By the way, did you see that the Bush administration quietly announced that it was stopping its search for WMD after having been an invading and occupying force in Iraq for nearly two years? That's really too bad. I was thinking of applying for the position of WMD-finder. It would be like when the government pays farmers to not grow crops. For a hundred grand a year, I would have happily reported back that I couldn't find anything.

Getting back to the theme of tonight's festivities, spokesperson Jeanne Phillips of the Presidential Inaugural Committee claims that the events, which will cost $40 million, honor the military. Says Phillips: "We recognize this time that we are a nation at war."

I checked the Wehaven'tdeclareddiddlysquat.com Web site and found that we really aren't a nation at war. We're just beating up Iraq because somebody living in Afghanistan told some Saudis to crash planes into some buildings.

If Bush wants to leave a real legacy, he should have Congress pass a law that says that if we're going to war, we have to declare war. And if we don't declare war, then politicians can't use the word "war" to further their petty careers. It would be a truth-in-advertising thing, where they'd have to use terms like "hissy fit" or "politically motivated invasion."

There's an e-mail going around touting today as "Not One Damn Dime Day," during which we can show our disdain for Bush and our disgust for his policies by not spending any money on anything for just one day. I'll do my part, but I don't think it'll work. The best we can hope for is for almost every business in America to grind to a halt.

Except for Starbucks.

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