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Rahs and Rah-Nots

by James Lileks

Michael Shulan, creative director of the 9/11 Memorial Museum, said he almost didn’t include the famous photo of firefighters raising the flag because it was too “rah-rah.” One “rah” is okay, but two? Please. According to a forthcoming book on the subject, he said, “I really believe that the way America will look best, the way we can really do best, is to not be Americans so vigilantly and so vehemently.” Right. If guys like him had been around in ’45 they would have restaged the Iwo Jima photo for race, gender, and sexual preference. Inclusiveness is great, unless you’re overrepresenting the double-“rah” Vehement-American community.

He is a silly man. But this is the silly season. The dead spot in the summer when nothing happens and things get crazy and trivial — you know, like that summer when Iraq invaded Kuwait. Downright madcap! This year’s silliness has been depressing, though; let’s take a look at the dreary tales that have occupied our weary minds for the last few months.

1. No one cares about Anthony Weiner broadcasting his dangly bits, because that’s what he does. Here’s a guy who gets a warning from his carrier that he’s approaching his cell-phone data limit and thinks it’s a testament to his endowment. No one cares that his wife is a super-human ultra-capable glamorous D.C. power wife, because the only thing more squirmy than a dweeb with delusions of glandeur holding a press conference to say it shouldn’t matter is the sight of his wife at the same event pretending she didn’t want to beat him to jam with a rolling pin. At least for once you can say, “Boy, I really didn’t enjoy that excruciating Weiner presser,” and people know what you mean.

There was one revealing moment, though. Well, there were dozens of revealing moments, which was the problem, but also this: Asked by the Staten Island Advance how the scandal might affect his son someday, he laughed it off: “The kid’s going to be growing up in Gracie Mansion.”

Because that trumps everything, doesn’t it?

2. No one cares about Detroit. The reason this story doesn’t register with more people is simple: “Detroit Declares Bankruptcy” is like an obit for someone described last year as “The World’s Oldest Man.” They made their featherbed, now lie in it.

Ah, but there’s rhetorical hay to thresh. It’s the Right’s fault, you know. This is what it looks like, said one lefty cable-babbler, when you get government small enough to drown in a bathtub. Which would be relevant except you can’t fill the bathtub because the pipes broke 20 years ago, and no one fixed them because the money went to pensions, or a city initiative to tell people to shower outside when it rained. Besides, the Tea Party hates municipal utilities! Some gummint busybody comin’ on your property, drillin’ holes, layin’ pipes to test your elevator cables? Where does it say anything about water in the Constitution?

That’s what the Left thinks the Right thinks, anyway. When you point out that the trouble isn’t the existence of, say, water-pipe inspectors, but the fact that they can go on disability at 45 for “chronic hangnails” and retire at 55 with benefits that cover full organ replacement with a buck-fifty co-pay, the Left will respond ZIMMERMAN SHOULDN’T HAVE FOLLOWED THAT CHILD. Or something as relevant and accurate.

What’s next? The pensions may have to take a “haircut,” the charming colloquialism that should make us call a guillotine a “styling comb.” Swaths of the city may be leveled so the remaining residents can huddle around the center like hobos around a trash-can fire. A Russian plutocrat may buy six historic empty skyscrapers and amuse himself by ramming them with remote-controlled zeppelins. Who knows. Maybe they’ll apply to join the euro zone; Greece would probably co-sign the application, since it would make them look positively Swiss when it came to the public purse. What’s certain is that it reflects poorly on progressive governance, and hence holds no lessons for anyone anywhere.

3. Which brings us to the matter of the Tea Experiment. The Honest Tea Company, a division of Coca-Cola, conducted a nationwide test to see whether people would pay for the stuff at an unattended kiosk. Character, as the saying goes, is what you do when no one’s looking, or Huma won’t be home for an hour. In Alabama, 100 percent of the people who took a drink paid, which makes the sophisticates laugh: They no doubt think some imaginary Sky-being is looking over their shoulder. Most of the nation scored in the 90s or high 80s. Bottom of the list: Washington, D.C.

Stunning! A city whose chief industry is Confiscation abounds with people who feel entitled to take something without paying. Granted, a dollar is a lot to ask; you could get a whole house in Detroit for that. But it’s telling. Perhaps D.C. residents assumed that the operator of the kiosk had his hours cut back because the employer was making everyone part-time to escape Obamacare, in which case the company should be penalized. Perhaps they realized it was a promotion and Coke would write it all off, in which case the government was actually subsidizing Big Tea, so they were entitled to a free one.

Expect things to get sillier as the month wears on, at least as far as the media are concerned. Oh, there’s Benghazi, IRS, HHS, and all the rest, but covering those wouldn’t be silly. That would be ridiculous, especially when there’s a president to protect. Three cheers for him, by the way! Rah! Rah! Rah!

– Mr. Lileks blogs at www.lileks.com.

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