Two weeks ago, I asked readers to propose a new name for this column, which, like Uranus and Cheez Whiz, needed a moniker makeover. The response was rather amazing. I received more than 100 suggestions, most of which were good and many of which were downright brilliant. In fact, they were so good that brand experts should probably consider polling LEO readers before they unveil names like “Wii,” “Donald Trump — The Fragrance” or “Possibility City.”
The new name for this column comes from the clever mind of reader Pat Bush, who kept me giggling for days with pun after pun. Pat (who wants everyone to know that, unlike that other Bush, her family “has intelligence and integrity”) also proposed “Age of Treason,” “The Crass Menagerie,” “Dissentary,” “Welpins of Mass Discussion” and “Bellow Wryly,” which could be the homonymic antidote to Bill O’Reilly.
Reader Lesley Blakely also came up with several clever names, including one of my favorites, “Wise Guise.” Several readers proposed funny Welp-themed names, and some proposed titles that were simply too long, such as “I’m a Totally Uninformed, Straight White Liberal Male Idiot Who Got an ‘F’ in History Class.”
But ultimately, I chose “Summary Of My Discontent,” partly for its clever nod to Steinbeck’s heartbreaking nod to Shakespeare’s “Henry III,” and partly because it lets me use the acronym SOD, which is British for “piss-off,” Irish for “the homeland” and American for “selling lawns to rich exurbanites,” which, when you think about it, is hilarious.
At first, the word “discontent” gave me pause, because I am basically a very happy guy. I love my smokin’ hot wife and my two beautiful children, Ralph and Waldo-Emerson. I have the best job this side of Guinness Tester. My family and friends are always there for me, and my dog makes me smile at least 20 times per day. I live in the best city that would have me, and I have the breathtaking honor of writing this column. So why the discontent?
It goes something like this (cue the violins): Some people look at America and think, “This is a great country. I’m going to fight to keep it that way,” which is a reasonable conclusion. Others think, “This is a great country. Imagine how good it could be.” That’s where the beauty of discontentedness comes in.
Imagine how good we could be if we made the connection between our cell-phone chargers and our disappearing mountaintops. Imagine how good we could be if we linked our auto lust with terrorism and childhood asthma. Imagine how good we could be if we linked our designer clothing with slave labor overseas. Imagine how good we could be if religious zealots didn’t make our laws, if corporations didn’t own our leaders, if we didn’t measure our self-worth in dollars. Imagine if philosophy hadn’t been smothered by religion; if ethics hadn’t been swamped by creationism; if Twain, Whitman and Thoreau hadn’t been cast aside for “Biggest Loser” and “Flavor of Love.”
Imagine if we made the connection between commuting solo and animal extinctions, between eating beef and the destruction of rainforests, between shopping and the end of everything. Imagine if we acted as if one single malnourished child (whether from hunger or fast-food-related diabetes) in our community is a failure of all of us. Imagine if we chose our senators for their ability to make these connections instead of their ability to bring home pork.
Imagine if Americans were as interested in ending institutional racism, CEO gluttony, frankenfoods, gun violence, (pause violins) and an illegal war (recommence violins) as they are in following March Madness or the Daytona 500. Imagine if our newspaper of record spent as much ink on these issues as it does on fashion accessories and chamber-of-commerce rah-rah-ism.
Imagine if the people who are working so desperately to save America from destruction at the hands of terrorists weren’t simultaneously surrendering the Constitution via a crippling succession of bigotry, invasion of privacy, torture and imperialism.
Imagine if columnists didn’t spew so much sanctimonious hoo-hah. OK. I’ll shut up now before I use up my new name on the first day. Thanks to everyone who sent suggestions, especially Pat and Lesley, and local writers John Carbone and John McDonald, who made it a very entertaining choice.
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