What's new since Tuesday?



Pundits of all stripes have been preparing us not to expect overnight miracles from the Obama administration. Barack himself quite sensibly cautioned that the mess his predecessor got us into isn't going be tidied up by the weekend.
   What immediate progress we've enjoyed in these first few days of the new order has been gratifying indeed: concrete plans to dismantle our illegal detention facility in Guantanamo; a White House salary freeze; a curtailment of lobbying clout; unshackling the Freedom of Information Act; serious talk of getting us out of the pointless war in Iraq. Nice stuff, and way about time.
   And there have been other notable transformations. People aren't ashamed to be Americans all of a sudden, for example. And the sense of relief since noon on Tuesday has been so overpowering that even all the "responsible" (read cowardly) mainstream news organizations that bit their craven tongues for the past eight years are finally coming right out and saying that Bush was a putz. Also nice. Like dissing the bully after he gets off the school bus. Too late, but righteous.
   But it's the subtle changes that add up, and ever since an educated, sensible, and compassionate president replaced the usual dufus, our national perceptions of what is and isn't cool have pretty much done a 180. Overnight.
NOT COOL ALL OF A SUDDEN - Being an apathetic young white drunken asshole with your hat on backwards. No longer is the highest achievement of American manhood popularly considered to be the ability to chug a 40. You can't be much help to the country if you're blasted all the time. So sober up and act at least half your age. (And lose the hat, Bro.) Also no longer cool: women pretending to be attracted to people like that. Just say no to lugs, girls.
NOW COOL - Being a nerd. Not a Boy Scout (that will never be cool if only because of the silly uniforms) and not being an obnoxious know-it-all kind of nerd (people hate that as well), but just being . . . well serious about stuff; paying attention in class. Welcome back to the public forum. We've missed you madly.
NOT COOL NOW - Black guys walking around in big clumsy coats pretending they're gangsters. That image was always more show-biz than reality anyway. We understand the impulse to intimidate, but you really do look foolish, and now you have more reasons than ever to demand respect for being a contributor, not a threat, to society.
NOW COOL - Articulate African-Americans doing TV-news interviews. It's amazing that in the ramp-up to the inauguration all the news teams who had, over decades, consistently gravitated to the most slang-ridden, irrational, street-posturing spokespeople in the black community started finding African-American men and women on the street to interview who made sense and spoke as normally as everybody else on TV. Gee, we guess they were always available. What made you guys notice all of a sudden? Updating your stereotypes? Okay, given the circumstances, we'll take it.
NOT COOL NOW - Buying up foreclosed properties from banks. Bargain house-hunters aren't helping the victims of the banks' predatory lending practices, they're helping the very usurers who deserve to be swinging from lamp posts. Do you really want to profit from someone else's misfortune? Every time you put the key in the door of your drastically discounted home, will you be haunted by the image of the previous owner sleeping in his car? Think about it.
NOW COOL - Actually doing something to help people. The needs are obvious. Enough said. 
NOT COOL NOW - Confusing being badly dressed and driving a pick-up with being an American.  We actually saw a truck ad for one of the Big Three (aired during an NFL game) where some grubby, thick-headed dolt exclaimed in praise of some new monster vehicle, "I forgot I was pulling a trailer!" Really? Not even a clue? Completely slipped your mind? Perhaps you should work on a mnemonic. Look, buddy, if you're driving around in a turbocharged V8 unaware that you're dragging along several tons of freewheeling baggage, I really don't want you tailgating me on the turnpike. As of Tuesday, being a drooling dumb-ass regained its rightful status as an negative personality characteristic. And the automakers that this new government has to tax the rest of us to bail out had better start pitching to some higher values.
NOW, ALAS, COOL - Driving one of those ugly and uncomfortable little fuel-efficient cars. Yeah, it's a horrible experience, but it's the right thing to do. Someday, some company will make a dependable little car that doesn't steer like a wet shoebox, isn't made out of papier-mache, and has room in the back seat for something bigger than a cat. Until then, we suffer for the sake of others.
NOT COOL NOW - Being a creationist. It never was cool, but it sure did become popular when the White House saw promoting ignorance as essential to its re-election. That's over now. Really. You guys are idiots. Perhaps you didn't evolve. Go away so the rest of us can have your food.
NOW COOL - Telling a creationist to shut up because he's wrong.
NOT COOL NOW - Fox News.
NOW COOL - PBS, Bill Moyers, and the memory of Edward R. Murrow.
NOT COOL EVER - Howie Carr, who in a gratuitously vindictive and illogically argued column in the Herald's inauguration-day supplement, wrote, ". . . the last time this many people were huddled around TV sets in office buildings was for the reading of the O.J. Simpson verdict." Yup, Howie went straight for the blood-stained racist implication, never pausing for a second to consider that 1) the comparison was outrageously tasteless and 2) a lot of people watched TV at work on September 11, 2001 (six years after the Simpson verdict). To all this we say: "Blow it out your ass, Howie. You're a hack and a fool and an opportunistic reactionary surfing a tide of ignorance and hate that's about to ebb for a long time. Good riddance to you and the festering pig you rode in on."

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