Here’s the Problem

     I understand that J.D. Salinger is dead and Holden Caulfield never existed, but still: When did our country become such a bunch of goddamn phonies?
     The question arose as I read two stories in The New York Times last week, on successive days.
     One story said that the NCAA was considering investigating Pat Knight, the son of the great college basketball coach Bobby Knight, on the suspicion that Pat Knight might have let two recruits meet his dad.
     Pardon me, but the problem with college sports is not that Pat Knight might have let two kids meet his dad.
     The problem is that the colleges and their coaches milk billions of dollars from student-athletes – use them up and throw them away – while “sanctioning” the kids for such heinous crimes as accepting spending money for appearing at charitable, or even profit-making events in college towns.
     The problem is, if you can believe lawsuits that have been reported on this page – and I do believe them – that state universities have gone so far as to ask young women to prostitute themselves to lure high-school athletes to their teams.
     Maybe it’s not prostitution, since the universities didn’t pay the young ladies any more money than they pay their football and basketball players. But if it’s not prostitution, it’s something worse. It’s turning a state-supported institution of higher education into a pimp.
     The other Times story involved Texas Gov. Rick Perry, who is seeking the Republican Party nomination for president. This story said that Perry might have violated campaign finance rules by accepting rides on a private jet for two days.
     Pardon me, but the problem with U.S. politics is not that a poofty-haired nitwit got free rides on an airplane.
     The problem is that the U.S. government has been sold, lock stock and barrel – from the White House to the U.S. Senate to the House of Representatives to the U.S. Supreme Court to our 50 Statehouses on down – to unscrupulous, gigabillionaire corporations that squeeze out their last bloody nickel by tricks so gigantic as hiring death squads to murder union members overseas, and overthrowing popularly elected governments, and so petty as giving Clarence Thomas a set of snow tires.
     That’s what the problem is.
     I have an old college friend who lives in Manhattan. He visited the Occupy Wall Street people this week and wrote me about it. He thinks it’s great that young people are protesting – at last – and so do I.
     But the only thing I remember from his letter is the protesters’ “vacant eyes.”
     Occupy Wall Street has been slammed for many things, lack of a program, lack of specific demands and lack of specific solutions among them.
     Well, no wonder. The protest, if accurately directed, would be – as it is – against just about everything in our political system today: the White House, the Congress, the Supreme Court, the Statehouses, the thuggish corporations, the increasingly neo-Fascist Republican Party, and the cowardly Democrats.
     No wonder their eyes are vacant.
     How can you take on everything, when you’re out of work and 21, college diploma in hand, with no prospects other than to work for one of those corporations that are reaming out 90 percent of the country, while charging us for the Vaseline and the sand?
     I’m going to close with a lawyer joke. I generally don’t like lawyer jokes, because they so often are nasty and unfair. They are unfair because our government of liars (Republicans) and cowards (Democrats) have abdicated their jobs to regulate, and prosecute, corporate criminals. The only ones left to do that are the lawyers. And the lawyers who take on the job often work pro bono, and always work for way less money than the lawyers who defend the corporations.
     Nonetheless, I am going to close with a lawyer joke. Here it is:
     What’s the definition of a slick Southern lawyer?
     He can get a charge of sodomy reduced to “following too close.”
     The problem with our country today is that the people who are supposed to be writing and enforcing the laws are a bunch of slick Southern lawyers.

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