Essay by Don Olsen
Politics – October 1998 – Colorado Central Magazine
SINCE 1998 is an election year, politicians will soon be returning to their districts here in the West with wonderful news of all the federal bacon … er, funding they have brought home to the various corporate interests … er, constituents who have helped support their election to office.
Area politicians will no doubt tout their efforts in passing the new, $200 billion-plus federal highway bill, a gold mine for highway contractors and real estate developers who need access to distant farmlands. Or they’ll boast about their support for the half-billion-dollar dam here in Southwestern Colorado “to address the grievances of Native Americans who’ve been denied access to their historic water rights.” Actually a pay-off, of course, to the region’s real-estate developers, who will end up getting the water to build subdivisions around Durango.
Since it’s obvious to anyone actually paying attention that the U.S.Congress, whether Republican or Democrat, is actually a huge feed trough that slops out the nation’s wealth to various interest groups, we think there should be a lobby for everyday rural Westerners — the ones who usually get pushed away at feeding time by bigger porkers.
Our lobby would demand the following:
Free tattoo parlors. We see on CNN that tattoos have become very chic in urban America. Our nearest tattoo parlor is more than 60 miles away, and if we don’t have access to stylish body mutilation, people are going to think we’re hicks.
Wooden Butterfly subsidies. Out here in the rural West, your status in the community is highly dependent on the number of wooden butterflies you have mounted on your double-wide. People who can only afford one or two may develop a poor self-image, and a compassionate Congress would ensure that all Westerners own enough butterflies to feel good about themselves.
Free group therapy for militias and radical environmentalists. These two groups have been treated unfairly by both government officials and the media just because they happened to be born in the wrong century and have no grasp of modern global corporate culture. Scream therapy combined with various pharmaceutical regimens would help calm them down so they could cheerfully watch television like the rest of us.
Cappuccino subsidies. My small town has no public access to an espresso machine! A truly callous Congress has made it impossible for small-town westerners to be able to spend $3 for a bad cup of coffee like people do in the suburbs. You call this equal opportunity?
Visual distractions. Unlike urban America, people who live in the rural West are often unable to pay proper attention to billboards, infomercials and other types of commercial messages because they are sometimes distracted by mountain scenery and pastoral views. The Congress should make an even greater effort than it already has to remove any forests, rivers or other pristine landscapes that might interfere with our ability to absorb consumer information.
Ostrich subsidies. A few years ago, approximately half the people in the rural West invested in ostriches and emus, believing the giant birds would be their long-awaited opportunity to achieve the American Dream. When the market for the birds suddenly evaporated, many rural economies collapsed, and to this day Newt Gingrich has not uttered one word of sympathy for victims of rural America’s disastrous ostrich egg fiasco.
Free Beanie Babies. In urban areas, consumers have easy access to Beanie Babies — the tiny stuffed animals made by slave labor in communist China that have become the rage among Americans who would otherwise have absolutely no life. We in the rural West have never even seen a Beanie Baby, but feel it is our right as American citizens to immediately have supplies of the colorful little critters airlifted in to us by the federal government.
After all, if Congress can give big business hundreds of billions of dollars in subsidies, they could at least give us rural westerners a few 5O-cent stuffed animals to keep us quiet.
And actually, a little bit more of that scream therapy might not hurt either.
Don Olsen is the publisher of the Valley Chronicle in Hotchkiss, Colorado. He is a contributor to Writers on the Range, a service of High Country News, based in Paonia, Colorado.