Tumbleweed's Strange Planet

    Imagine yourself suddenly kidnapped and whisked away in a fantastic craft, one which, its pilot assures you, is in route to a planet exactly like Earth but in a parallel dimension.  The pilot tells you that his Earth is a very special place, one where "real conservatives and capitalists" have taken control.  He promises that you will be very impressed by the wonders that have followed that victory over the now completely eliminated liberal cult.

    As the craft passes through dimension after dimension, the fantastic colors are impossible to look at directly.  To pass the time, you slowly look around and, to your great concern and anxiety, you note that the pilot is none other than the son of the First Village Idiot, none other than Tumbleweed or, as he's known in the lowest circles, Resident G. W. Bush.  Beside him, hanging from the ceiling, is what at first looks like an ancient, gray cadaver.  As your eyes become accustomed to the faint light in the ship, you see that it is Dick Chaney, and what you thought to be ropes are really tubes that are connected all over his desiccated and wrinkled body.  The tubes carry a faint red liquid as well as other tubes of brown and green.  You have no idea what those substances could be and you decide that it undoubtedly isn't in your best interest to find out.

    "What are you doing, Mr. Bush, and what the hell happened to Dick Chaney?", you ask.

    "We're not the same Bush and Dick that you know on your planet Earth", he tells you, "Well, we are them but from our dimension, which is a different one, like yours but not yours, exactly.  Understand?"

    Since you did sort of understand, it's obvious that he wasn't exactly the same as the Bush back a few universes ago.

    "What do you want with me, then?  Why am I so important that you decided to kidnap me," you ask?

    "Well, it's this way.  You write that anti-business, anti-Republican, anti-progress garbage that some folks seem to find important enough to read.  Uncle Chaney figured that we could bring you here to our world and show you just how wonderful an unfettered free market could be.  He thought that, if we could show you what your world can achieve, then you would change your attitude and work toward a world where the most important people live with the respect and honor due to them.  If you decide became one of us, then you would become a hero to those important people back on your planet and you could teach the rabble how the world should be run.  You can show them that their lives will be a whole bunch better without them having to worry their empty little noggins about anything except which brand of car or sneaker to buy or what's on TV that night.  You and I both know that the regular folks just ain't got the brains to understand what Uncle Chaney calls the 'Big Picture'"

    This admission staggers you.  "Listen, Mr. Bush.  I have maybe a thousand or so regular readers and that's just on the Internet.  How can that be any help for whatever "free market" crusade you want me to join?"

    Bush laughs that little girl laugh of his and rationalizes, saying, "It ain't how many people read your stuff, it's how many our media will make the rabble thinks reads your stuff.  By the time we're finished, you'll be a Pulitzer winning candidate for a Nobel Peace prize.  You'll become a powerful symbol of the discredited liberal clan back on your planet and the act of you suddenly seeing the righteousness of our conservative crusade will make you a household name and a hero to the people who need to be guided towards the right way of thinking."

    "So, what this little drama is all about is to show me the error of my ways and to offer the conservative's view of Nirvana", you ask?  "That's going to take a lot of convincing. sir.  Back home, millions of people are dying every year from preventable diseases, from starvation in a world of plenty, of injuries sustained at work and school, and millions of children face a bleak future of below sustenance wages and toxic air and water and, well, the world you took me from basically sucks.  What can you offer here that is any better?"

    "Boomer, I can call you Boomer, can't I?  I like to make up nicknames for the people I meet.  Keeps me from having to remember their real names cause that's really hard.  Anyway, Boomer, you'll see some things that you might consider 'problems' but I'm here to tell you that none of them affect the really important people and we haven't heard a single complaint from the common people about them, either.  I want you to look at that 'Big Picture' Uncle Chaney always talks about before you go making any judgments, okay?"

    You find yourself overwhelmed by a sense of confusion and pure dismay.  If this other Bush thinks that he lives in some sort of conservative Nirvana, then it's either a truly depressing place for the "unimportant" people or else it's a place where Bush can play with his electric trains and slot cars without being interrupted by actual events.  While you pray that the second is true, you know, deep in your heart, that isn't going to be a fun visit.

    Looking around at the interior of the ship erases any doubt that the parallel Earth that you are going to will not be a happy place.  How do you know this?  Because the walls of the space ship (or time or dimension ship or whatever this thing is) are plastered with posters showing pictures of starving children and jingoistic phrases like "They are poor because God does not favor them!" and "Remember, compassion doesn't mean their problems are ours!" and "If they had been meant to be important, they would have been born important"  Other posters proclaim "God loves the wealthy and powerful!" and, above a picture of dead and dying animals "Evolution works!"  Mixed in among them were pictures of Bush looking completely out of place in an ill fitting military uniform and Chaney, obviously in much better days, behind an ornate podium with other, equally ancient, but equally well dressed white males and text across the bottom that proclaimed "God helps those who help themselves".

    Finally, after what seems like days (but, you are informed by the Supreme Count brand computer at your side, was really only twenty minutes and there can be no recount of the actual time because allowing it to happen might prove to be a negative influence on the computer's original chronographic declaration) a world slowly comes into view.

    Below is a planet covered by slow moving clouds the color and apparent consistency of watery mud.  No where can you see through the soupy atmosphere down to the surface.  The sight reminds you of the smog back in your dimension's Los Angeles, only multiplied to the extreme of a planet-wide fourth stage smog alert.

    Oddly, you see orbiting the planet, huge platforms with what at first seems to be spines growing out from them.  "Must be communication satellites," you ponder.  As you pass near to them during the craft's descent, you discover that the spines are hundreds of missiles on each floating platform, all pointing down toward the surface.  There are dozens of these in geo-synchronous orbits.  These are just the few that you can see, you realize.  There must be millions of megatons of death silently gliding through the vacuum, with God knows how many more circling the planet.  You remember that this is basically what the Chaney administration was dreaming of back home and, here, it is reality.

    Your pilot turns and says, "We'll be landing soon.  Isn't this just the most beautiful place you've ever seen?"  Your throat tightens as you realize just how insane this person is.  You stare at him, trying to uncover even a hint of irony in his words but there is none to find.

    A disembodied voice interrupts your stunned silence.  "Brown has always been my favorite color, behind green, of course."  The eerie voice, you realize, is coming from a box sewn onto the throat of Chaney's neck.  Its tinny, other worldly quality staggers you and, in the back of your mouth, you taste the sharpness of vomit rising in your stomach.  The monotone voice continued, "Brown is the color of oil and I once just adored the feel and taste and texture of oil.  Now, sadly, there is none left and we're forced to burn the forests  for heat and, again, exploiting the atom for electricity.  Thankfully, with all of the rabble too sick or ignorant to get in the way of nuclear power, we find we can make electricity so much cheaper without all those damn safety regulations of the past.  Thank God, being 'green' means being rich, again, instead of some anti-business, tree-hugging, owl loving nut."

    As he speaks, you watch through the window as the ship is engulfed in the soupy, fetid looking clouds.  The ship begins vibrating and swaying and Bush blissfully informs you that "We must be flying over one of the fires that are burning in the Amazon.  Those darn things just keep on burning and burning.  We'd try to put them out but the wood isn't good for much and the animals and plants just take up space that should be used to grow cattle in any event.  We thought about smothering them by dropping all of the environmentalists on them until we realized that the Corporate Police Department had killed them all during their anti-corporate protests."  He finishes that little speech with a truly silly little girl giggle.  You find that your body is now shaking even more violently than the ship.

    You scan the distance, looking for signs of life.  You think that you occasionally see some lights far below but the clouds hide them almost immediately.  Finally, you see two points of light off in the distance.  Even with the clouds hiding them off and on you eventually discover that you are growing closer and closer to them.  Situated far above what must be the surface you see that the lights are atop a huge translucent bubble of some kind.  

    Seeing where you are staring, Bush turns and, with the stupid, inane little grin that he has worn since they kidnapped you, explains that the lights are landing beacons and that the bubble is where the "Important Americans" now live.  "It keeps out not only the riff raff (a joke, apparently, as his grin turns up slightly more as he giggles to himself) but also it keeps out the poisonous air and horrendous storms that have been coming ashore all year around.  The common people have learned to put up with that stuff, I guess, but we decided that we didn't need to", Bush explains.

    A small rectangular door slides open as the craft approaches and through it you go.  The air is crystal clear inside the dome and below you see neat little rows of mansions and swimming pools and perfectly manicured lawns and orchards.  You try to guess how wide the circle of land enclosed by the dome is but you have to give up when you grasp the fact that the far side is hidden in mist and what appears to be rain clouds, meaning that the enclosure is large enough to create its own weather systems.

    The ship lands softly on a wide, asphalt covered area.  There are no buildings or control towers to be seen but, Bush assures you, "This is where the poor people built the landing area before we pushed them back outside and, well, we just don't have the folks who can do this kind of work around, anymore.  It's flat and that's all I suppose it needs to be. The flying thing we got here in is controlled by computers so anyplace is as good as anyplace else."

    A door in the side of the craft slides open and stairs drop to the ground out a hidden space in the floor.  As Bush moves towards the door, you glance back at the thing that is Chaney.  "Don't worry none about him," Bush reassures you.  "This is where he lives.  This way we don't have to move him when we have to go back outside to get some more volunteers for donor organs".  The dry, toneless box on Chaney's throat emits a cackle and hiss of air, what might have been laughter in a less vile looking creature.

    You follow Bush out onto the surface.  The air is spiced with the scent of pine and newly mown grass.  There is just the slightest breeze coming from no particular direction.  You ask how the air is kept so clean inside while the rest of the planet seems to be drowning in diaphanous mud.  He just shakes his head and says, "I don't have the slightest idea how anything like that is done.  Shoot," he says. "I'm just El Presidente of this little place.  I'm not supposed to worry about such things.  Uncle Chaney and Uncle Ashcroft do all of that kind of thinkin'"

    You walk towards one of the many mansions that surround the landing the area.  Slowly, the silence creeps into your awareness.  There are no birds or insects, no dogs barking or children playing.  You can hear nothing except the awkward sounds of your own feet, loud even in the grass in this tomb-like hush.

    You crane your neck, looking all around you, hoping to see just one other person or even just a fly buzzing nearby.  There is nothing.

    Bush seems oblivious to the still, quiet world he walks through.  

    As you near the stately house before you, the doors open without contact, the windows, dark and foreboding as you approached, explode in a blaze of light as lamps and hidden illumination come to life.  You enter behind Bush, expecting to be greeted by liveried servants or his family, but there is no one.  The house physically feels empty, if such a thing can be said to happen.  

    Bush quickly moves to a closet, opens the door, enters and then closes the door.  You stand rooted to the spot, not knowing just what to expect next.  After a few minutes, the closet door opens and out comes Bush, no longer wearing the Snoopy hat and goggles that he had worn during the entire trip.  Instead, he is wearing what once might have been a well crafted suit.  Now, however, the elbows of the suit were worn and patched and the trousers were frayed at the bottom.  The coat hangs on Bush as if it had been created for a larger, more robust man.

    "Okay, Mr. Bush.  Why am I here and what is it that you want from me?  This whole place is really scary.  Where is everybody?"

    Instead of offering an answer, Bush moves into the next room, what looks like a library but with dozens of completely empty shelves, and sits in a badly worn faux leather chair.  "Come on into my family room and get comfortable", he invites with another frat boy type grin.

    "Mr. Bush, this isn't a family room, it's supposed to a library.  Where are all of the books?  In fact, where is your family?"

    Bush leans back in his chair and says, "We decided long ago that we rich folk have no need of books.  If they're by those damned liberals then they're full of lies and nobody who's rich has any time to write so we just used them all for fuel a long time ago." 

    "Okay, books are bad in this world.  That doesn't answer my other question.  Where is your family?"

    Bush slowly flipped his wrist in a dismissive gesture.  "Haven't seen them since they had to go down to the medical center to have some of those nasty skin cancers removed.  I figure they'll be back in a few weeks.  Shoot, if nothing else, I know the girls will be back soon since I have just all the liquor left in that cabinet over there."  Again, he ends his words with that silly giggle that's beginning to rasp on you nerves.

    Your so stunned by this admission that you literally step back.  You finally drop into the only other chair in the room, hoping that it would carry your weight in its dilapidated condition.

    "Mr. Bush, you sound very unconcerned about the health of your family," you state.  "Have you been to this medical place to see how they are?"

    "Nah," Bush says, "Uncle Dick told me not to worry about it and I always try to do what Uncle Dick tells me. He's a lot smarter than I am, I'll tell you that."

    "I won't argue with that," you say while thinking, "in either world"  

    "Am I to believe that only the wealthy live inside this dome?  Where does everyone else live?  Outside in all of that crap?"

    Again Bush waves his hand as if to diminish the question.  "Hey, once the air started to get dirty, we told them that it was up to them to make the sacrifices.  We told them that had to pay more for gas and electricity and promised to use the profits to clean things up and they were dumb enough to believe it.  We told them that we just had to drill anywhere we thought oil reserves might be and to hell with the protected waters.  We told them that the water was great to drink even with the extra arsenic and other toxic metal stuff.  We told them that health care for everyone was just too expensive and it was a great way for their stupid theory about Darwin and the fittest and all that to work it all out.  Shoot, we even told them that we promised to clean up the air and water and everything once these domes were built and we could work in a controlled environment.  Would you believe it", he cackled, "they believed it all right up until the point where it was just too late to change anything?  What a bunch of morons."

    "So what you're saying is that, in your rush to get richer and richer, you and the other members of your little club so polluted the air and water that all of that filth outside is the result?  Then you lied to the public and convinced them that you would fix all of the things you were responsible for in the first place?  My God, Mr. Bush, their lives out there must be miserable.  Why don't you do something?"  You leave your chair and begin pacing back and forth.  You honestly can't believe what you're hearing.

    Bush settles back into his chair, oblivious to your shock.  "Looky here, Mr. Liberal writer.  I didn't go through all that fuss and bother to bring you here so that you could act like your Earth is somehow better that mine.  I brought you here to show you that, no matter how bad the conditions become, compassionate conservatism will always find a way for the select few to survive and, buddy, we are surviving quite well, don't you think?  Those people on the outside don't deserve to keep on breeding like rabbits and then demanding that the government do something to support them.  Hell, like Uncle Dick and Uncle Ronnie always told me, the rich are just a damn sight better than the rabble out there.  If the gene pool isn't cleaned up then the whole wide world will end up being just beggars and pregnant welfare women.  We're doing the world a favor, doggone it, because the only genes that matter are ours, the rich and the powerful.  Uncle Dick can explain this a whole lot better than me, though.  Ask me about toothpaste or how to get the class nerd to take your finals every year and I can go on and on about those things."

    It suddenly dawns on you that Bush actually believes his insane explanation.  Understanding that doesn't make it any less nauseating, though.

    "Okay, I see the end result of your local version of "compassionate conservatism".  What I don't understand is why the people allowed their world to degrade to this level.  Didn't they speak up and demand that the government take some sort of action to stop you wealthy little pigs from destroying their planet," you challenge?

    Bush gives that effeminate little wave of his hand again and sighs loudly.  "You want to know how we did this", he asks?  "Well, we didn't really want it to go this far, you understand?  I all just kind of got away from us.  We did too good of a job misleading the spongy little minds out there.  What we did, you see, was convince most of the people that government was always evil and that regulations of any sort just kept capitalism from working its magic.  We didn't exactly tell them that corporations were the answer, we kind of hedged around that by inventing the idea of "privatizing" the entire school system and then we let it go to hell and then made it legal to take funds out of the public schools and "invest" them in fundamental Christian schools.  That made it a whole hell of a lot easier to train the little rug rats to be the sort of citizens who just stayed out of our way."

    "We made sure that the health care system was solidly funded with tax dollars so that cures for every disease would eventually be found, but then made it so only the Important People could afford to use the medical system."

    "We pretended to clean up the wastes that our companies were producing and when the rabble found out the truth, we made it a federal crime to take air or water or soil samples anywhere on Earth without a license.  You can bet those people never saw a license except in the hands of our hand picked scientists who went on TV to tell the people all is well over and over and over.  Those simple people out the soon grew tired of the whole subject and we made a few of the more vocal protesters just sorta disappear."

    "Heck, in no time at all we had the common folks pointing their fingers at one another every time things went sour by reminding them that government was no longer a factor so it must be their neighbors who are making life so hard.  Before you knew it, the whites were running around killing the blacks and them Mexican folks who they thought were stealing their jobs.  The blacks were killing each other over drug sales territory while we were the ones bringing the drugs into the country in the first place.  Eventually, the Europeans and Asians and Chinese and such got mad at the way we were making the world kind of dirty so they tried to gang up on us and started a silly war that we won hands down.  Want to know why?  Because we had been financing most of the companies that made those computer chips and we had made them so that we could turn them off anytime we wanted.  Those bozos pushed the buttons and nothing happened.  Har Har!"

    "Mr. Bush, I've heard absolutely nothing that shows me that you "Important" people are anything other than leeches sucking the remaining life out of this planet.  How do the people outside survive?  What do they eat?  Are there any schools or hospitals or even roads left?  If the Amazon is burning as you say, is there anything left of the environment that can take the CO2 out of the air and keep it at least breathable?  Is the water out there even drinkable?  What about the children?  What about the elderly?  Jesus, Bush, what about the 99.99% of the human race that isn't able to live in these domes but are forced to live out there in that soup?  Don't you give even the slightest damn what they are going through while you stay in here, protected from every evil result of your stupidity and greed?"

    Bush stands up and walks to the window.  "Uncle Dick said that you wouldn't understand.  He said that you liberals always want the world to be fair and for everyone to share and all that crap.  Well, listen here, buckaroo, we have the power and the money so we get to make the rules.  Our America ain't no socialistic place, it a capitalistic place through and through.  That fellow in the movie years ago had it when he said, 'If I have and I keep it, that's good.  If you have it and I take it, that's even better!'  Those people out there weren't as smart as we were so we live in here and they live out there.  Want another good quote?  My Uncle Ronnie always used to say, "Screw 'em, they're poor!'  That's my way of thinking, too."

    You realize that not only is it hopeless to ever get through the greedy and selfish little minds of Bush and his "Uncles", there really isn't anything that you can do for the people outside.  They allowed this all to come to pass and now, even though no one truly deserves to live in that hell out there, it is a hell of their own, complicit making.  There were probably many, many times that unfolded in which they could have risen from their lethargy and wrested the control of their nation away from the vile little gnomes that are now the only members of the entire planet that can breath the air without choking.  There must have been other people who stood up to these rancid creatures and cried out to the people, trying to inform them of the morass that they were being led into so willingly.  Those voices must have existed.  Why wouldn't the people listen and act before  it all fell apart so very badly?

    "Mr. Bush, I must demand that you take me back to my home.  This putrid planet may be heaven to you and your ilk but it stands only as a filthy, corrupted world for me.  Your low and malevolent kind have tricked the people of your world into allowing you to rape and plunder what was once a beautiful and healthy planet.  You and your sort have done nothing but take and steal until you find yourselves prisoners in this dome, unable to live anywhere else and still believing that you are somehow superior to those wretched souls out there.  You, Mr. Bush, are in no way superior.  You are simply more evil, more cunning, and, in all respects, less human than they.  Their world may be filthy, but your soul is polluted, and you have no hope of ever cleansing yourself in here."

    "Just go put your liberal ass in the ship and tell it take you home.  It will remember where you came from and take you back.  I guess that there just isn't any hope of ever opening your confused eyes to the truth.  You'll always be just another failure, another worthless person who just can't understand that, like Uncle Ronnie and Aunt Nancy always said, the only measure of a man's worth is his wealth.  Now go on, git going."  I knew that I was dismissed and it was welcome news.

    I left Bush gazing out the window.  As I walked across the lawn and boarded the waiting craft, I stopped at the top of the stairs and looked back at Bush, watching me from the window.  He had regained that vacant, thoughtless smirk and, with his left hand, stood silently picking his nose.

    Throughout the trip home, I couldn't cease thinking about what I had been taken to see.  I knew that the chances of my home being so utterly destroyed were remote.  What I also knew was that the citizens of my home were as ill-informed as those who had allowed that world to decay and suffer.  Our media routinely lied and misinformed the people and any hope for factual information from alternative sources is hindered by the major media's ability to shove them aside from the magazine racks and off the airwaves and cable lines.  The people I was returning to had passed the point where they cared one way or the other about being informed on the important issues and had arrived happily at the point where simple slogans and childish images were all that they think is needed to be informed.  The place I was returning to was similar in many ways to the hell I had left back there in that people were lazy and uninformed.  My home was just entering the era of complete corporate control over all aspects of people's lives.  People simply couldn't see the runaway train that was bearing down on them and, even if they noticed some small evidence of the impending crash, they mentally shrug their shoulders and change the channel.

    We might not end up in the same horrible situation as I had just left but we weren't going to miss it by much.


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Copyright 9/12/01