OK, we start with a cartoon on the web site of the McKinney Tea Party, depicting President Obama as a high-stepping, vaguely simian character dressed as a trumpeter in a marching band. The headline is "McKinney Sustainability Plan." A label over the president identifies him as, "Dear Leader Obama."
According to a story in today's Dallas Morning News, the cartoon expresses a current of unease and unhappiness in McKinney, a city of 136,000 that lies 30 miles north of downtown Dallas on US-75. People in McKinney, according to the News, have been expressing anxiety over a million-dollar grant the city won two years ago from the U.S. Department of Energy for the development of a comprehensive sustainability plan.
Sustainability, it seems, is bad.
McKinney critics of the sustainability plan are especially alarmed at certain elements of it, including farmers markets, bike lanes and water conservation. Another cartoon on the Tea Party web site shows a Homer Simpson-looking guy naked in the shower (is this a good self-concept?) while a masked burglar with "Dallas" printed on his chest breaks in the door. On the floor a copy of The Dallas Morning News bears a screaming headline, "Home raids long overdue."
The burglar is shouting, "Turn off that water! And where is your assigned bicycle?" A caption over the whole cartoon (sorry, these cartoons take some work) says "For the common good - 2019."
The year 2019 is significant in certain dystopian views of the future, but, you know what, we're going to have to get a move on here. The point is, what do these people think McKinney should be doing with its time and energy instead?
The McKinney Tea Party site offers suggestions, including information on how to stockpile food in preparation for the Global Meltdown. It advertises an upcoming seminar on canned goods, for example, open to all with only one restriction. The web page warns, "The only requirement is NO OPEN TOED SHOES!"
I have attended Tea Party events, and I feel that I have a pretty good feel for this particular demographic. I think the ban on open-toed shoes is a good idea, at least for their own demographic. I'm not sure why they wouldn't want to see other younger healthier toes. Maybe it's a competitive thing.
But look, this is all serious, if you live in McKinney. In the wake of these expressions of anxiety over sustainability, the city of McKinney, according to the News, is either abandoning or greatly scaling down all efforts toward any goal that could be described as green. McKinney may even have to consider changing its logo, a green tree over the motto, "Unique by Nature."
They haven't asked for suggestions yet for the new logo, but I'm thinking in terms of a green tree with a big red X over it, with "No open-toed shoes" as the motto.
So, the second piece of the puzzle this morning is a terrific piece that ran on the front page of the New York Times Sunday Review section yesterday under the headline, "Republicans to cities: drop dead," a play on the infamous New York Daily News October 29, 1975 headline paraphrasing President Gerald Ford's opposition to a financial bailout for New York City. In yesterday's piece, author Kevin Baker, recounts the history of the Republican Party's love-hate relationship with the nation's great cities over the years, coming to what I thought was a hilarious conclusion. After describing the relentless march of diversity and urbanism out from city centers toward the farthest reaches of suburbia, Baker writes, "Republicans may not want to go to the cities. But that doesn't much matter. The cities are coming to them."
Ha! I love that! You can't keep us out, you green-hating, toe-covering, oatmeal-hording funny-hats. No matter what you do to bar us, no matter how high the walls, how deep the moat (song title?), we are a-comin', comin' to you with our farmers markets and our bike lanes and ... yes, ha-ha, yes we say as we cackle and rub our hands ... our toes! Millions and millions of toes!
So the last piece to think about this morning is Edgar Allan Poe and his short story published in 1845, "The Masque of the Red Death," the tale of the medieval prince, Prospero, who barricades his castle against the poor suckers outside who are dying of plague by the millions.
Prospero even throws a masked ball party for his wealthy friends, who compete in grisly costumes to see which best mocks the suffering of the wretches beyond the castle walls. The best costume by far is that of a stranger disguised as a plague victim in final agonies. And guess what! It's not a disguise! Everybody dies!
Ever since the story came out, writers have interpreted it as a metaphor for all sorts of things mainly having to do trying to put off The Big Inevitable. I take note that McKinney was founded in 1841, four years before Poe's story was published. I notice also that Poe's career suffered a serious set-back as a result of the New York City financial crisis of 1837.
It's so hard to figure out where stuff like this really comes from. In this morning's story in the News, a McKinney city councilmember is quoted saying, "We have some citizens that are concerned that our freedoms are being eroded. I think that is where this debate has come from."
Oh, no. That's not right. I mean, that could be a factor, but the whole toe-phobic thing is obviously way deeper than that. These people are deeply, deeply afraid of something. They sense a threat out over the horizon, something moving relentlessly toward them, a thing so awful it makes then want to stockpile canned goods. Think what it must take to make people actually want to stockpile canned goods! Those things take up a lot of space.
They're right. The cities are coming for them. The cities' toes are bare. Those toes are wiggling, wiggling, wiggling. And guess what. Those toes are REAL!
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