Friday, February 4, 2011

Future Snark

Whenever there are great occasions of public oration, I miss them. They always happen in prime-time, and I’m accustomed to averting my eyes during prime-time. In fact, I always arrange to sleep through prime-time.

Missing the oration means I don’t know everything that everyone else does. I know the words because they’re in the New York Times the next day, if the oration is anything to sneeze at. But I miss the nuanced delivery, the dramatic pauses, the turned up eyes, everything you need to really be fully informed in a country informed by appearances.

But we must do what we can. I shall now attempt to read Obama’s State of the Union address, as it appeared in last Wednesday’s New York Times. [Pause for slow reader.]

OK, let’s see, distinguished guests, fellow Americans, Boehner, rancor, shooting, contentious democracy, we’re great, yadda, yadda, we’re set apart as a nation (as opposed to what? -- as a broccoli?), we will move together because we must, but we have to do more, China, India, yadda.

Alright, here’s something. He says our country is built on an idea and that’s why our kids don’t just memorize equations, they answer questions like “What do you want to be when you grow up?” I never put those things together before. So, it was our founding as a free republic that’s responsible for gnarly uncles asking endless stupid questions. Yeah, I can see that. It sure explains Uncle Ned. He never should have been free.

Next Obama’s telling us we have to win the future. Whenever someone points to something, I make a habit of glancing over my shoulder at what he’s pointing me away from. I guess it’s acceptable to lose the past if the future is still there to be won. I can switch to door number three.

Now here’s something else I did not know! I did not know this was a Sputnik moment! How did the new Sputnik get by me?

If I could see the Sputnik overhead maybe I could figure out how Obama gets from “What do you want to be when you grow up?” to “I want be one of the 80% of Americans riding in high-speed trains powered by 80% clean energy.” I don’t see that as much of a career, but then, maybe I just don’t know what the word “career” means. Is it like “careen?” What’s this 80% fetish?

What about my dream, that 80% of America be underwater, so I can get there by stolen rowboat?

Speaking of knowing things, we come to Obama’s first immediate concrete proposal, to continue income tax credits we already have for paying tuition. So that the people who can now afford to go to college can continue to afford to, until tuitions are raised again. A bold proposal.

After three decades of cuts in support for higher education, no change is progress we should all applaud.

He talks about bringing high-speed wireless to 98% of all Americans in 5 years, so that, among other things, students can take classes with a digital textbook. How about using that to crank the tuition down? Is that too much to ask?

How about a future in which 80% of adults have college educations that are fully paid off, so we don’t have a country of debtors?

Questions to propel further snark

Could the author of this column be any snarkier? Suggestion: come up with a snarky over-all assessment of the State of the Union Address that the author could have whipped out. Then, raise the snark level with a counter-snark of your own.

Reading comprehension: Is the author really snarking at Obama, or is he snarking at Americans for setting themselves up for these kinds of addresses, by their absurd expectations. Should every presidential address be a callback to Kennedy’s “Man on the Moon” address?

Obama said that at the time Sputnik was launched the science didn’t exist yet to go to the moon. Hello? Newton’s Laws?

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