There was a $9.99 sale on 12-packs of Budweiser beer at a corner store recently, which I bought without realizing the cans had been rebranded as "America" for the summer. One of the multiple ironies is that Bud is now owned by the Belgian conglomerate AB InBev who were trying to capture patriotic millenials as new customers. According to an article in Business Insider, the campaign has been an abject failure. Millenials have been migrating to wine and craft beers and aren't about to drink weak, old-fashioned swill whether it's wrapped in the flag or not. In fact, during my lifetime we have gone from a country that featured about a dozen domestic beer brands to this startling statistic from Bloomberg News: "There are now more U.S. breweries than at any other point in recorded American history. According to data released today by the Brewers Association, there were 4,269 operating breweries in the country at the end of 2015, surpassing the previous record logged all the way back in 1873 when a lack of transportation and refrigeration meant breweries had to be local."
A 12-pack of America beer turned out to be the perfect accompaniment for the last two weeks of U.S. presidential party conventions which I glanced at on a DVR with my partner Tony who was transfixed by the car wreck of the Republican convention and the slick, uplifting rhetoric of the Democratic convention. My favorite speech was First Lady Michelle Obama who seemed to be channeling Scandal's Kerry Washington offering one of her frequent, inspirational Shondra Rhimes soliloquies. The most interesting commentary I have read recently is a July post by UC Berkeley linguist and cognitive scientist George Lakoff called Understanding Trump, which explains why he's winning. It's long, frightening and makes considerable sense. Here's a sample:
As the legendary Green Bay Packers coach, Vince Lombardi, said, “Winning isn’t everything. It’s the only thing.” In a world governed by personal responsibility and discipline, those who win deserve to win. Why does Donald Trump publicly insult other candidates and political leaders mercilessly? Quite simply, because he knows he can win an onstage TV insult game. In strict conservative eyes, that makes him a formidable winning candidate who deserves to be a winning candidate. Electoral competition is seen as a battle. Insults that stick are seen as victories — deserved victories. Consider Trump’s statement that John McCain is not a war hero. The reasoning: McCain got shot down. Heroes are winners. They defeat big bad guys. They don’t get shot down. People who get shot down, beaten up, and stuck in a cage are losers, not winners.
Coincidentally, I've been reading my first Octavia E. Butler novel, set in Northern California during a dystopian near-future, 2032 to be exact. Her voice is that of a black, sci-fi Cassandra, and reminds me of Doris Lessing and Margaret Atwood at their visionary best. Speaking of Atwood, her novel The Handmaid's Tale, published in 1985, is a spookily perfect envisioning of a country led by someone like Mike Pence, where abortion is murder, women are the property of men, and gays are hung by their necks at city gates for being "gender traitors."
Doing research for this post, I discovered that Parable of the Talents is actually the second in a two-volume series so I am going to return to it after reading the primary Parable of the Sower. There was a startling bit of futurist synchronicity, though, when I stumbled across the above text on my commute home yesterday. Texas Senator Andrew Steele Jarret, a right-wing, racist, fundamental Christian rabblerouser is running for president and his slogan is "Help us to make America great again." Butler published the book in 1998, and was going to write sequels but found the prospect too depressing. She died young at the age of 58 in 2006.