Which came first, the prayer or the bomb? (a poem)

My God is bigger than your God
My weapons are bigger than your weapons
Because my God is bigger than your God
My country is wealthier than your country
Because my weapons are bigger than your weapons
My God is bigger than your God
Because my country is wealthier than your country

God likes the United States more than other countries
Because God helps those who help themselves
And no country helps itself to other countries’ wealth like the United States
God likes a winner
And the United States is the biggest winner since the Roman Empire
God liked the Roman Empire
Even though it used to persecute the church
But in the end the Romans made the church official
And then the church replaced the Romans
So it all worked out in the end

Roman Empire gladiatorsIt is possible to know what God wants
God speaks through the Republican Party platform
The platform says it represents God
Therefore what God wants is in the Republican Party platform
God gives the country with the most believers the most weapons
Because believers are the most likely to use the weapons
And then there will be less believers in other countries
So it will be easier to take those other countries’ wealth
Proving that the country with the most wealth
Has the most believers
And therefore is the best country
It is easy to believe

Happy holidays, everybody. And if you happen to be in New York on January 1, drop by the Nuyorican Poets Cafe for the annual Alternative New Year’s Day Spoken Word/Performance Extravaganza, from noon to 9 p.m. It’s free!

The magic of the market comes to a national park near you (a poem)

The yuppie couple in the tent next door
Bring in their take-out pizza
Despite all the warnings against keeping food after dark
That’s good
Because if the bears come
They’ll attack their tent and not mine
Though the bears ought to get paid for making an appearance
Since this is a for-profit park
I don’t know what the government would do
If Yosemite stopped being profitable
One concessionaire already controls everything in the park
Would it be allowed to foreclose?
Maybe this is the first step in privatizing the parks
And then it’ll be made so expensive to visit
That only yuppies and the rich will be able to stay there
We’ll sneak into the park disguised as rangers
Then plant food inside the tents to draw out the bears
Putting new meaning into the concept of “eat the rich”

Too much of this will get the bears fired
No one will have civil service protection once the parks are fully privatized
Certainly not the bears
It would be a sad sight to see bears in the unemployment office
With few options
They might wind up in the military
Hopelessly out of their element in the desert
Unless this is seen as an acclimation program for the bears
Under full privatization
Parks will reach their full profit potential
All the hunting licenses that can be sold would be sold
The trees cut down
Until the parks are reduced to desert
And now the bears can come home
When their tours of duty in the desert are finished
Because they will now be acclimated for the parks

With nothing left but barren ground and a few disgruntled bears
Who are hungry too because there is nothing left to scavenge
The land will be of no use except as target practice for the military
And the bears will already be used to bombs dropping
A new way to see the nation
Bomb Yosemite! Bomb Yellowstone! Bomb Arcadia!
The psychological benefits of parks bombing will be immeasurable
If you can bomb your own parks
Bombing other countries will be even easier
Making it easier to export these ideals
More humanitarian bombing will lead to new privatized governments elsewhere
Which will sell bombing rights to their parks cheaper
Enabling the military to cancel its national parks leases
There will finally be no more profits to be made
The private parks company will sell the parks back to the government
They will again be open to all
Which will be fine by the rich
Since they won’t be interested in traveling to a wasteland
And the newly admitted will plant a tree

Happy holidays to you all. If you are in New York City on New Year’s Day and like poetry, considering coming to The Alternative New Year’s Day Spoken Word/Performance Extravaganza, taking place from 2 p.m. to midnight at the Nuyorican Poets Cafe, 326 East Third Street. It’s free and more than 100 poets will preform.

Don’t like trickle-down economics? Talk to your dog about it

In observance of the holidays, a little whimsy this week.

If a theory doesn’t work, create and fund “think tanks” and buy the media to tell everybody it does.

Well, it works for the one percent. Why shouldn’t it work for you? How else to account for the fact that three decades of that thin gruel of an economic theory, “trickle down,” is still peddled as the cure for what ails us? Never mind that it is precisely trickle-down ideology that led us to economic crisis and stagnation.

The idea does seem, to put a gentle spin on it, counter-intuitive: Shower money and tax cuts on the very wealthy, and some of their gains will then “trickle down” to the rest of us. It’s been mighty dry for three decades, but it must be admitted that it has worked out well for the very wealthy.

The usual response when a well-promoted ideology fails — and so it is here — is to claim in a loud voice that the real problem is a failure to apply the ideology with sufficient zeal.

So maybe the solution is that trickle-down ideology should be applied to more spheres of life.

Take medicine, for instance. Talking to a doctor and having a prescription filled out makes it too easy on the sick. Instead, everybody should have a portion of their wages sent directly to a doctor, in case they should need health care in the future. Those who pay the most are first in line when sick. The rest can stand outside the office — on the sidewalk, please; let us not have the grass trampled — and wait for vials of medicine to fall out the window.

By arranging for the medicine to go to the rich who can afford to buy their way to the head of the queue, a natural order is established, and the rest merely need wait for some of that medicine to trickle down. The wrong medication fell, you say? Well, you shouldn’t have gotten sick in the first place.

For that matter, supermarkets are too egalitarian. Where is the market discipline sorting the worthy eater from the unworthy eater? A proper trickle-down regime would arrange for food to be given only to those with the highest income; what the rich didn’t care to consume would then be offered to those not at the top of the food chain. Please wait outside until then. Hey, you over there — get off the grass!

I admit that I had not applied trickle-down with sufficient zeal. For instance, I hadn’t thought through how we could apply it in our everyday lives. For instance, what if the ideology was not limited to humans, but applied to dogs and cats? We could save a bit of work. We’d just put food on the table, and whatever crumbs fell off the table — trickling down — could be scooped up by them.

I hadn’t thought of using such a method to feed the cat back in the early days of Reaganite trickle-down. Never mind that the cat knew I was a soft touch and, besides, she could tell time. I would come home from my newspaper job as a young reporter a little past midnight and the cat would be waiting for me when I parked whatever early-model wreck I was driving at the time.

The cat knew I would feed her, which I did, and then she’d meow for me to let her out. Then again, the cat wouldn’t have starved as she was a good hunter. But that isn’t what is meant by trickle-down, unless the cat occasionally left the odd bird around for other neighborhood cats. I didn’t keep track of what the cat killed, nor had I ever known her to discuss economics.

The Shetland sheepdog wasn’t necessarily a good example, either. Admittedly, the dog was quite patient when it came to sitting at attention during dinner, so could be considered willing to wait for scraps to trickle down her way. Inherent in any systematic willingness would be a rugged individualism — a dog-eat-dog mentality, shall we say — but the dog and cat instead tended to work well together.

They were the best of friends, and sometimes swapped dinners. Bad dog! Bad cat! Subverting the natural social darwinism of nature! I can’t say what the dog thought about this, either. She was smarter than most dogs (her ancestors were bred to do a job, not look good in somebody’s lap) but I had never known her to discuss economics, either.

We never do know what our pets are thinking, do we? Well, in the case of dogs we do have some idea: They would like to eat. Had I ever managed to speak Dog (I never have had an aptitude for foreign languages), the conversation might have gone something like this:

“You know, after all these years, you might think about learning to make your own dinner.”

“Dinner? Did you say dinner?”

“Yes, but you already ate. I don’t mean dinner now, I mean dinner in the abstract, as a future concept.”

“Dinner? I would love to eat.”

“Right, but you do understand that I am speaking of future dinners? Your ancestors were smart enough to keep the sheep from wandering off and probably were capable of grabbing themselves something to eat in the field.”

“Eat? Yes I am ready to eat!”

“I think we have that established. You have always been a loyal friend, and I appreciate that when you are riding in the car you always try to attack the attendant at the gas station on our behalf, but it wouldn’t hurt to help out a bit around the house.”

“Do you notice that scary hose the attendant sticks in the car? What if it is some sort of terrorist weapon? And, besides, he never feeds me.”

“Ah ha! You can conceptualize the future: Terrorism won’t become a national obsession for another two decades. This is the still the 1980s, when terrorism is called ‘low-intensity conflict.’ ”

“It’s only called low-intensity conflict because the terror campaign is waged by the side that Reagan is funding, the Contras. And Reagan has never fed me, either.”

“Okay, you got me on both of those. Neither of us could conceive of voting for Reagan. Now I’m hungry, too. Would you like to eat?”

“Yes, but you know very well I can’t open cans.”

“Don’t worry about it. I’ll never let you go hungry.”

Trickle-down never does seem to work.