While political types attempt to take the public pulse via poll and ballot, those of us seeking deeper knowledge of the American psyche get our info by taking a trip to the beach. A recent visit to Virginia’s Atlantic shore uncovered two prominent facts of contemporary life. One is that large numbers of Americans remain immune to the hectoring of health hysterics and parasitical lawyers. That’s the good news. On the negative side, the other fact is that our youth corps has clearly and irredeemably learned many of its language skills from HBO.
We began our investigation on the Virginia Beach fishing pier, where the pleasing aroma of a brutally overworked deep-fat fryer drew midday diners like bees to honey. Fried clams, fried fish, fried potatoes — they could fry up billiard balls and have plenty of takers. Beer sales were likewise brisk, and because Parson Bloomberg has yet to buy the local mayorship, tobacco use was widespread, including cigars. At one time, this was normal behavior. These days, as we know, all are targeted activities.
It is true that some fellow citizens have taken the Super Size craze a bit too seriously, growing to the size of fully adult manatees, to the point of having difficulty staying above ground in areas where the sand is not thoroughly packed. The larger point, however is that chunking up must now be considered an act of civil disobedience. In the current context, eating that extra éclair is a heroic act.
This is not to criticize those who practice Cadaver Chic. A thin thigh is many a man’s delight. Yet there no doubting war has been declared. Even those of us who have enjoyed moderate territorial expansion — a couple dozen pounds, give or take a stone or two — are now branded obese by the fed health cops, who also insist that drinking five beers constitutes a binge. This is not only madness. It is a dangerous philosophy. If we are going to go after rib eating, tobacco smoking, and beer drinking because they are drains on the health-care system, why not also clamp down on other behaviors that make people ill and cost lots of money, such as certain sexual practices?
Beach to the likes of the Surgeon General: Zip it, pal.
Of course the SG isn’t listening, and the beach is no place to get worked up over politics. Instead, we sip our Coronas (barely beer, but wet enough) and celebrate the blessings our era bestows. How pleasing that even the most humble stores offer a banquet of food, drink, and desert from all parts of the earth, at low prices. If this is a problem, it’s a problem mankind has prayed for since the first of us turned over that first stone and ate that first grub worm. Let the death-phobic health nuts munch their beans and curds. They’ll die anyway — and if cheeseburgers aren’t served at their wakes, we ain’t coming!
The beach offers that other fact of modern life, one largely overlooked: There is no such thing as Attention Deficit Disorder, no matter what the pharmaceutical industry says. It is true that lots of kids don’t pay attention in Algebra class, which is nothing new. But it is also quite clear that they soak up every word uttered on television and in the movies, which they dutifully regurgitate, often at loud volumes, in very crowded places. You once had to travel to the docks to hear such language, especially the F-word, now ubiquitous and apparently spoken without provocation intended. This is simply all they know.
On the bright side, these untethered young tongues can provide comic relief. The wife and I were out on the beach soaking up some rays (another federal crime?) when a pretty tart of 13 or so suddenly screamed: “Mom! I want to go. And you got to help me get this sand out of my butt crack!” One could hardly help but laugh. And of course observe that the Free Speech Movement has been a total success.
— Dave Shiflett is a member of the White House Writers Group.