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Saturday, January 07, 2006

The Bottom 40. 

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I have to tell you that I keep reading Bush’s approval rating at 40% and I can still hardly believe it. There is a cautionary tale in here that acts as a testimony to this a portion of the US population I call the Bottom 40. Begin with the notion that almost half this country actually thinks its AOK that we are carrying on torture. 40% of Americans have no understanding of the blowback against us, the fear and terror we are spreading and the price we will pay, not just with our souls, but the price in lost respect from our allies. We will pay for our ignorance when our citizens travel abroad and run into trouble and our soldiers will pay this price when they are captured. We will pay this price when the rest of the world is rich enough to say no to our products, and no to our ideas and no to our schools and no to our safe passage through their country.

That’s where one short story begins.

A dear friend of mine has a boy who just turned 18. His high school was participating in a student exchange program and he and another American high school graduate found themselves on a bus tour through Italy. Ten days, 12 stops. When they came to a small town on the northern coast, all the students were driven up to a pavilion where they would begin a walking tour and then have lunch with students from an Italian high school.

The local course administrator and the tour guide herself had a quick conference when the bus pulled up. The kids all piled off except the Americans. The administrator herself spoke English and waved to my friend’s boy and the other American to come to see her. “You have to stay on the bus on this stop. Sorry. The locals don’t really want to see any Americans and we are afraid that they may start a fight.”

Fortunately for the kids, there was a bathroom on the bus. After about four hours of abject boredom a woman walked a couple of lunch plates to the bus and fed the Americans. “You’ll be able to get off the bus in Rome, boys.”

Only one other town made them stay on the bus. The fact that it happened at all is sad and disturbing and just symptomatic of what happens when Bulls walk through China shops.

“You boys better stay on the bus” is a symptom of the unraveling that has trickled down to everyday citizens. If our borders were less than 3000 miles of ocean we would know what the world thinks of us first hand. If we had a press that was more like the press we had in the 60s, there might be a Bottom 40.

And yes I do think what the rest of the world thinks matters. Don’t ask the 40% of Americans who approve of Bush. Here is my theory- hare-brained though it may be, it is the intersection of failed public schools,and a press manipulated by a vast right wing propaganda machine: Remember that in the 1980s, a large scale but general knowledge test was given to American High Schoolers and the results were already indicative of the danger were in. Students were given a blank map of the world and asked to find the Pacific Ocean, 48% got it right. The Pacific Ocean is the largest blank space on the map. You could throw a dart at the map blindfolded and have a 48% chance of getting the answer right.

A similar percentage of students got the answer right about whether the Earth revolves the Sun or visa versa. (Jay Leno joked that in the world geography question that half weren’t sure which finger to point with.)

You have to assume that since this test was 20 years old, we can assume that the almost 50% right answer has dwindled down to about 40% of the student population that is barely literate.

My guess is this bottom of the barrel high school student is probably Bush’s base. This is why I call them the Bottoms. This has little to do with their income though Bottoms tend to be Middle Class and Poor. They are the least educated, the least likely to vote Democratic, the least likely to receive a benefit for supporting Bush, the least likely to move beyond sound bytes or talking points, and unfortunately in almost any academic field, the Bottom are the least likely to get the answer right.

Bottoms have their own set of beliefs and are driven more by these beliefs and being a part of a lockstep constituency than Democrats/Left/non Bush supporters. To this very day most Bottoms just assume the USA has better medicine, better weapons, better laws better commerce better scientific innovations and better sports than everyone else in the world. I still hear these conversations among people young and old. They are singing the lyrics of Toby Keith and believing every word. I have heard Americans who can barely afford to get medicine vow that it’s worse in Canada and Europe. I have heard men and women in their golden years hark back to the only moment the world might ever have owed us a thank you and talk about storming the beaches of Normandy as if nothing else between then and now of any significance ever happened. Bottoms are also less likely to travel outside the country.

The Bottom 40s reject Academics and Intellectualism. The same scientific methodology that produces the guns we kill insurgents with, the same scientific methodology that creates every machine, ever piece of technology is now being questioned because it threatens the absolute monopoly on the truth of Christian mythology. The failed public schools of the seventies and eighties created this generation of dumbasses and it is our dumbasses that the world hates.

The Bottom 40s are the reason we have preemptive wars, and now we sanction torture, and we are de-spoiling the environment protections. The Bottoms reject the separation of church and state- and the Bottoms exempt the gun industry from lawsuits and the Bottoms reject international organizations, and piss on our Allies.
The Bottoms votes for Bush helped the unchecked and little discussed increase poverty in the U.S.A. and abroad. This has helped reduced the tax burden from wealthy corporations and increased the burden to individuals to wage earners. The Bottoms are among the massive numbers of Americans without health care who still seem to trust Bush. Bottoms have rejected their own pay increases, their loss of effect Bankruptcy protections, their access to medicine when they will really need it, and the Bottom 40s still approve of attempts to privatize Social Security.


They will not be moved. If anyone with a 2 digit IQ still thinks this is a competent administration after everything they have seen, then nothing whatsoever is going to move them. The Bottom 40 is an albatross on this country. They reject the Constitution, they reject science, and until they die out they will be the ball and chain that is dragging America down into mediocrity and ruin. The fact that they don’t budge is a bad thing for America. They will keep change from happening fast enough. The perfect storm of a combination of the right kinds of Bush supporters turning against him will be slow in coming. The Bottom 40 will take a step away every time we make every two steps forward. By the time the US regains some semblance of democracy, the rest of the world will be comfortably ahead of us in enough areas where it counts.


The bigger picture foreign policy message that Bottoms don’t get on Faux News is that whatever welcome we won when we toppled Saddam, and whatever welcome our parents earned for us on the beaches of Normandy has been officially worn out. The drag on America will continue to occur not just within, but on our disastrous foreign policy front as well.

So the short term measures that will return us to greatness may be think tanks and tax increases. The long term fixes have to be an educated (read that completely revamped public school system) and informed (read that an FCC that would decertify the broadcast licenses of all propagandists) public.
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