Democratic Underground  

BYOB: Buy Your Own Brainwashing
June 1, 2002
By Cecil Bothwell

In case you’ve missed it, Topps trading cards, the happy campers who have brought us baseball favorites--not to mention other sporting heroes--for over 60 years, has a line of Bush Administration cards right there on the impulse rack by the check out stand. Collect them all!

Actually, these “collectibles” aren’t Republican campaign ads per se, they are called “Enduring Freedom” cards, and are designed to tout the dream team that is out there making the world safe for democracy. (Yes, I know these jokers weren’t actually elected, but let’s not get bogged down in facts, okay?) And while it is true that there are one or two Democrats in the deck, and tons of cool military hardware, the All Stars are definitely Bush-league.

You can nab pics of former governor Bush, “Oil Slick Dick” Cheney, Don “Pop Tart” Rumsfeld, Colin “No-Bin” Powell, Condoleezza “Super Tanker” Rice, John “The Anointed” Ashcroft, Tom “Home Boy” Ridge, Norm “The Trucka” Mineta, and the whole first-string line-up on the National Security Council card.

These beauties are all in full color--except for the black and white wanted-poster photo of Mr. Forces of Doom Incarnate: Osama bin Laden. Naturally enough, the Topps designers consulted with psychologists before printing the Osama card, to determine if it was appropriate for children. According to Topps’ spokesman Marty Appel, “The psychologists told us it was good for kids ... They can act out with the card--crush it, tear it up, throw it out, whatever.” And, hey Marty, we all know that everything looks worse in black and white.

I haven’t seen the backs of the cards, so I can only speculate that they must be modeled after the ball player line. There are probably columns for strikes (busted), ERAs (votes cast against), stolen bases (data, that is), successful pitches (for Enron, G.E., General Dynamics, the usual sleazeballs), errors (hidden), RBIs (Republicans Benefitted Immeasurably), and speaking fees. (Since these numbers were presumably collected by Arthur Andersen, they should be regarded as “best guesses,” but they are probably more or less in the ball park.)

One trading game that is gaining in popularity is to figure the smallest number of cards necessary to represent a combined value of $1 billion. (Hint: Oil Slick Dick is worth over three times as much as an Apache attack helicopter--still an arms merchant’s bargain at $24 million a pop.)

In the bad old days in the former Soviet Union, propaganda had to be force-fed to the people by joyless bureaucrats who mouthed tired slogans over and over again to a bored and unreceptive populace. But here, it’s BYOB: Buy Your Own Brainwashing! It makes you proud to be an American.

The mercantile aspect of the Bush war on terrorism is impossible to overlook.

The local gas station sells patriotic tee shirts and posters with a bulls eye on bin Laden’s forehead. Hardware and drug stores have baskets full of lapel buttons, key chain dangles, and plastic signs with suction cups for car window display--each bearing flags and slogans and crying eagles.

Lowe’s gives away red-white-and-blue “Power of Pride” bumper stickers with any purchase (somehow evoking the God fearing patriotism inherent in purchase of do-it-yourself building supplies by pitching a slogan that extolls what was formerly regarded as a deadly sin: a metaphoric Rubik’s Cube with inscrutable nuances on every facet.) And this is only to mention the retail biz. The war-ware shopping list beggars the imagination, with the former governor’s proposed INCREASE in military spending exceeding the entire arms budget of China--now our most threatening potential enemy. (On this count it seems like Papa Bush deserves a card in the Topps lineup, sitting on the board of the Carlyle Group, which is already raking in hundreds of millions of dollars from junior’s war game. This is the sort of nepotistic enrichment that would make local voters drum a county commissioner out of office--if he awarded huge contracts to his Daddy’s paving company. The rules seem to be different, as usual, for the Bush tribe.)

On the other hand, money may not mean much to a man born with a platinum spoon in his smirky little mouth. No, Dubya has always set his sights a notch higher--over the fence and out of the park so to speak--ever since those salad days when he owned his very own ball club. And now that dream’s come true.

“Babe” Bush is on a baseball card!

Bothwell is author of
The Icarus Glitch: Another Duck Soup Reader, and associate editor of the Warren Wilson College environmental journal, Heartstone. His syndicated column "Duck Soup: Essays on the Submerging Culture" has appeared in print and on the radio since 1995.

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