|By Tony Russell|
As I was coming out of the post office this morning, I bumped into Bob
Oof, he grunted. Sorry there, I didnt mean to run you
No harm done, I said, picking myself up and brushing off my
seat. Whats the big rush?
Ive got a million things to do before inauguration, he
said. I dont know if Ill get everything done or not.
Bob, I said, I hate to tell you this, but the inauguration
is over with. Mr. Bush was installed last Saturday.
Not George Bushs inauguration, he said. Mine. As mayor
Mayor of Hur? Is that going to be a big event?
Big enough, he responded. Weve raised forty-four million
dollars so far for the festivities.
Forty-four million dollars! I gasped. I didnt know there
was that kind of money in Calhoun County!
Oh, there isnt, he said cheerfully. Its all corporate
sponsors. Gas and oil companies, timber companies, private prison
firms, Native American tribes, real estate developers, drug dealers,
that kind of thing.
Why in the world are they putting out that kind of money to
throw a party for you? I couldnt help asking.
Everybodys competing for a piece of the action, he said.
Several prison firms want to buy the entire county, put a
hundred-foot-wide moat around it, and turn it into the worlds premier
penal colony. Timber companies want in on it, because the entire
county would be clearcut so prison sharpshooters would have a clean
line of fire at all times. Theyre all bidding against several Native
American tribes who want acknowledgment of their ancestral ties here
so they can construct casinos. And gas companies think there are
still opportunities to get cheap drilling rights in a county where
people dont know what the stuff is worth. Ill tell you, were
having to tell sponsors to take a number and stand in line.
Whats your role in all that? I asked.
Well, as Mayor of Hur as well as president of the County
Commission, Im in a position to make key appointments. There are
assessments and appeals to consider. Rights of way. Tax breaks. You
Bob, I said, dont take this wrong, but dont you think
there are some ethical issues here? I mean, these corporations arent
forking out that kind of money from sheer generosity. They expect
something in return.
Oh, sure, he agreed cheerfully. Thats part of my
platform. A new realism about politics. No more pretending that this
is anything else but business. Its government to the highest bidder.
But youve always been such an idealist, I objected.
I suppose theres still a little idealism tucked in there
somewhere, he admitted. I watched corporations fork out
thirty-three million for Clintons inauguration, and I was aghast.
Then they threw a forty million dollar bash for Bush. Most of them
with business being acted on by government right now227firms like
American Airlines. Microsoft. And I decided that before Calhoun
County died, or I did, I was going to see if I could bring some of
that money in here.
Whats it all going for? I asked.
Well, theres the Inaugural Parade, of course, with elephants
flown in. I just hope they can navigate Hur Road in the snow. Bands
from all over the country. Floats built by Boeing and
McDonnell-Douglas. Charlton Heston for Grand Marshall. Its supposed
to be bigger than the Rose Parade. And then there are the ten
Inaugural Balls227Bush only had nine. Weve had to commandeer every
hotel ballroom in the county, as well as the high school and middle
school gyms. And parties everywhere, going on into the wee hours.
Big Owls and the Koffee Kup are staying open extra hours to
accommodate all the guests.
Its certainly a big spectacle, I admitted. All the same,
Bob, theres something about it that just doesnt seem right to
Think of it this way, he said. Ask not what your country
can do for you, but what you can do your country for.