The Hightower Lowdown
Conscipicuous consumption for pets; giving of ourselves, not just of our pocketbooks; John Ashcroft is "doing something" -- to our Constitution.
Stuff for Pets
Yes, just when you thought that commercialization of the holidays couldn't get any more garish, now comes an entire new category of conspicuous consumerism: stuff for pets. So much stuff that there are boutiques, catalogs, and as reported in the Austin American-Statesman, even Web sites to push the pet stuff.
We're not talking here about a simple chew toy for Fido, but a whole array of pricier goodies for a menagerie of critters. For example, this year's "Company of Dogs" catalog (sort of the Neiman Marcus of canine excess) features a damask-covered fainting couch for your pampered pooch. It comes complete with a tasseled pillow and is yours for only $240.
Or maybe you want your horse to be the talk of the stable, in which case you'll definitely want a bottle of "Twinkle Toes Ultra Fine Hoof Polish." This lets you paint your horse's hooves with gold glitter or other sparkly polish, plus you can get matching sparkles to work into your horse's mane and tail.
Don't forget your rabbit. Bunnybazaar.com offers a lovely willow basket thoughtfully filled with assorted edible twigs on a bed of dried grass and hedgerow herbs. It's billed as a "Basket of Fun" for rabbits.
And for that ferret, how about the little Santa suit from Ferret Wearables? It's advertised as being "Handsomely crafted to fit your ferret's active lifestyle."
The Christmas season got me to thinking about America's spirit of giving, and I don't mean this overdone business of gifts. I mean our true spirit of giving -- giving of ourselves.
Yes, we are a country of rugged individualists, yet there's also a deep, community-minded streak in each of us. We're a people who believe in the notion that we're all in this together, that we can make our individual lives better by contributing to the common good.
The establishment media pays little attention to grassroots generosity, focusing instead on the occasional showy donation by what it calls "philanthropists" -- big tycoons who give a little piece of their billions to some university or museum in exchange for getting a building named after them. But in my mind, the real philanthropists are the millions of you ordinary folks who have precious little money to give, but consistently give of themselves, and do it without demanding that their name be engraved on a granite wall.
My own Daddy, rest his soul, was a fine example of this. With half a dozen other guys in Denison, Texas, he started the Little League baseball program, volunteering to build the park, sponsor and coach the teams, run the squawking P.A. system, etc. etc. Even after I graduated from Little League, Daddy stayed working at it, because his involvement was not merely for his kids ... but for all. He felt the same way about being taxed to build a public library in town. I don't recall him ever going in that building, much less checking out a book, but he wanted it to be there for the community, and he was happy to pay his part. Not that he was a do-gooder liberal, for God's sake -- indeed, he called himself a conservative.
My Daddy didn't even know he had a political philosophy, but he did, and it's the best I've ever heard. He would often say to me, "Everybody does better when everybody does better." If only our leaders in Washington and on Wall Street would begin practicing this true American Philosophy.
Democracy Or Autocracy?
Woodrow Wilson noted that some people who get into high office in Washington grow with the job, while others simply swell. John Ashcroft, the right-wing ideologue who was named by George W. Bush to be America's attorney general, has swollen up like roadkill on a blistering hot day.
Using terrorism as his excuse, the arrogant and inept Ashcroft has defiled our Constitution, engaged in massive racial profiling, jailed thousands of innocent people in a political ploy to look like he's "doing something," arbitrarily set up secret star chambers that subvert our judicial system, and made such a mockery of good American police work that his autocratic tactics have been rejected by some of his own FBI officials, some local police departments, and some of our European allies.
Among the groups on which Ashcroft has come down hard: U.S. citizens who dare to criticize him! Indeed, like a tinhorn tyrant, Ashcroft recently went before a senate committee where he stamped his tiny feet and proclaimed that anyone who even raises questions about the administration's antiterrorism blundering is using tactics that "aid terrorists" and provide "ammunition to America's enemies."
Well isn't this a special development! Now the Bushites have become so imperious that they've declared it to be treasonous for us Americans to object to their usurpation of our Constitutional rights, including our right to criticize their idiocy. Sen. Jeff Sessions added to this anti-democratic crackdown on our basic rights by puffing himself up and asserting that critics "erode unity in our country and undermine respect for our leadership."
Hey John, Jeff, George -- let's review Americanism 101. What undermines respect in a democracy is not when the public criticizes leaders, but when the leaders try to muzzle the public. You can't unify people by labeling anyone who disagrees with you a traitor. That's dictatorship, not democracy.
Jim Hightower's latest book, If the Gods Had Meant Us to Vote They Would Have Given Us Candidates, is available in a fully revised and updated paperback edition.