Sprechen si Español?”
Someone left a copy of the Idiot’s Guide to Becoming a Citizen of the World by the side of the road, and I just so happened to be the idiot who picked it up. So I’m brushing up on my foreign languages—I figured I could just throw all the phrases I know from each language into a spicy and exotic bouquet, and get by just about anywhere with that.
Really, I’m just hoping to get laid. Yes, boys and girls, even Shredder has needs. And, like any good American, my awareness of the outside world is limited to what I think will make me look cool. The truth is, with the exception of a few days I spent running with the bulls in Mexico, I’ve never set foot outside the U.S., and Mexico doesn’t really count because, well, it’s Mexico. Also, I’m not sure whether I actually went to Mexico or just watched a documentary about bullfighting.
Which brings me to my non-existent point: Until now, I thought that it was my patriotic duty to avoid leaving the country. Inevitably, such a move would lead to a public relations disaster for the United States, and Obama’s already got a full time job explaining and apologizing for the stupid stuff other Americans are doing. But watching the debates for the upcoming elections, I realized I didn’t have to worry about our country’s image overseas. Because any one of the half-dozen clowns currently running for the Republican nomination will certainly piss all over what little international standing we’ve managed to cling to.
Don’t get me wrong: There’s a certain pride in knowing that even I could run for president. Luckily, we’ve got our politics at the local level all figured out. Take the Latino Outreach Council, an organization with an ostensibly clear and simple purpose, which should function with minimal tantrums. Those sorts of civic leaders certainly wouldn’t stoop to littering Facebook with an unholy string of obscenities and—worse still—enough grammatical errors to make a high school English teacher blush.
And even if they did indulge in such childish behavior, certainly a county supervisor would have the good sense not to make things worse. Supervisors have more important subjects to discuss and consider. They wouldn’t consider the standard $4,500 they’d committed to help keep the council afloat as some kind of handout that gives carte blanche to hijack the council after being a member for less than a year.
Apparently expecting wiser decisions and greater maturity from a supervisor and county-funded council than we would from a pack of horny, acne-ridden teenagers was our first mistake.
So after the council fought publicly and stupidly on Facebook over the subject of, well, photos that were posted on Facebook, my pal Supervisor Paul Teixeira decided that he’d better intervene. In fact, he’s been accused by some council members of leveraging the county funds he provided as an excuse to co-op the group and vote himself president in a secret meeting. All of which Teixeira—who is, in fact, now the group’s president—denies.
I seem to recall another instance of Teixeira confusing pursestrings with marionette strings. Last fall, Teixiera refused to allocate money from his discretionary account to the South County Advisory Council after a little tiff in which Paul acted in a way that could reasonably be defined as stupid.
So Paul’s sitting pretty as president of the Latino Outreach Council—along with his assistant Deb Geaslen, who finagled the title of secretary for the council—but doesn’t seem to have any clue as to what to do now. And council members are dropping like flies to protest the appointment.
On the subject of lowered expectations, I have to admit that responses to the homeless population’s dilemma of where to legally sleep at night were nothing short of heart-warming.
We, as a nation, seem to be stuck between a rock and a hard place—the rock being presidential nominees who take great offense at the notion of a separation between church and state and insist this is, indeed, a Christian nation, and the hard place being the numerous cops, private business owners, and city officials who somehow muster up greater sympathy for a complaint about noise or lost business because of the existence of unsightly poor people than for the poor people themselves.
The overall impression of this nation is one of passionate but dim rich white men with no apprehension of what it’s like to be homeless balanced by a watered-down bureaucracy utterly lacking in passion or color, but happy to pay lip service to the difficulties of homelessness. The reality is the people making the decisions that affect us all place greater priority on giving parking spaces to rich developers and installing “mission-style sidewalks”—whatever the hell those are—than on making sure its citizens don’t freeze to death. They pay hundreds of thousands of dollars to construct bathrooms in downtown SLO, then lock them when homeless people use them. And the chest-thumping, proud-to-be-American types are egging them on with rhetoric that demonizes anyone who doesn’t have enough money to live in this expensive city.
Where does that leave us? If we don’t care about poor people, we might as well say so rather than clutching at the pretense that they’re all no-good drug addicts, as people have told New Times staffers. Just admit you don’t give a flying fig for the poor if their presence in your neighborhood is upsetting. Then gather your torches and chase them all out of town, and pretend nothing happened when Oprah Winfrey comes calling to talk about the happy, happy people in this happy, happy place.
Shredder’s only happy when it rains. Send umbrellas and sad poems to firstname.lastname@example.org.