Summary Of 1997

    Just for once I’d like to be able to walk into the Professor’s office without having to face the prospect of a verbal assault.  To be able to come in and say “Hi” without having Aarron come up to me and nail me with some question about responsible journalism or the Bermuda Triangle.  I’d love to walk in and not find Vince pulling at his hair with his eye twitching, chanting some inane mantra like “I’m not listening, blah, blah, I can’t hear a word you are saying.”  I’d like to be able to greet Mercedes without her waving a firearm around.  And it would really be great not to see Nagasaki toying around with a toaster that was glowing red from excess heat.
    But it sure as hell wasn’t going to happen today.
    “Mister Benson, just the guy we’ve been waiting for!”
    Crap!
    Aarron was waving a newspaper at me. “Have you seen this?  What the hell ever happened to journalistic integrity?”
    I looked at the newspaper and it happened to be the December 26th edition of USA Today.  “Well there’s your problem Aarron, USA Today has never been regarded as a real newspaper.  The whole thing is filled with quick bites of information that only leave you with a hollow feeling.”
    Vince chimed in. “Yeah, that’s why it is the most read newspaper in the US, no wonder our entire society is caving in around our ears.  Show him the story Aarron.”
    The Professor opened up the paper to page 4A.  “Read this tripe Benson and then tell me why people who need to be medicated are writing newspaper articles for the Associated Press.”
    There it was “Editors: Di’s death is top story of ’97.”
    “So.”
    Mercedes jumped out of her chair and started running towards me with her hands outstretched in an effort to choke me.  There was no way that my slow ass was going to dodge her.  “How in the name of Doug can you say that the death of a ex-noblewoman was the most important story of the year?”
    She had one hell of a grip.  “For the simple fact that . . . ack . . . it was on every damn TV on the planet for like six . . . ack . . . days and that it was the focus of coverage for even respectable news entities like . . . glark . . . the New York Times and CNN.  Besides, I didn’t say that it was the . . . cough . . . most important story, just the most covered.”
    Thank Doug that she let go because I was starting to see those little black spots in my eyes, similar to that time when my brother choked me until I lost consciousness.  But I got the little bastard back . . . oh did I get him back.  He thought he could mess with me, well I just . . . “
    “Benson!”
    “What?”
    “Stop stewing in vengeful thoughts and get back to the topic at hand.”
    Do I have to?
    “Come on Aarron, you cant take this deal seriously.  I mean they did the whole thing like a Letterman top ten list.”
    “That is what I am saying.  Why don’t we just cut to the chase and talk about the most important stories of the year instead of this base trash.
    I looked at the article.  Fine, then lets knock out number 4, the Stock market plunge simply for the fact that within a couple of days it had regained its original level.  Most stock analysts will tell you that this was due in order to deflate some overestimated capital issues.”
    Vince yelled, ”And you can shit can number 6 because nobody gives a crap about cute babies when we are talking big picture. It’s not as if these kids are going to make the world a better place just because they were born.  I mean lets be blunt, it’s the first week of January and I haven’t heard a damn peep . . . a really important story.”
    Nagasaki chimed in for the first time, waving away the smoke that was pouring out of his troubled toaster.  “And I don’t want to sound like some heartless guy, but everyone knew that there was going to be a guilty verdict on the McVeigh deal, so it truly isn’t that big of a deal.  Now if he had been found innocent, then we would be talking important story.”
    “And don’t forget the fact that the entire population of Oklahoma would have burnt the city of Denver to the ground and killed every last person there if that had been the case.”
    “I think you’re exaggerating there Vince.”
    “Yeah, they said the same thing before the Rodney King verdict.”
    Point Hozler.
    Graves added his sixty cents.  “And for the love of Mike, number 10 didn’t even merit news when it first happened.  If people are crazy enough to believe that kind of thing, I say thin the damn herd.  Like the world needs a few more kooks to snap and waste 10 in a Postal Distribution Center killing spree.”
    Everyone was having a good time targeting their favorite little bits of trash, but I had to ask. “So what did merit being considered as an important story of ‘97?”
    Doctor Chen responded first.  “Well, the Mars Pathfinder is a good start.  First off it proved that exploration of other planets is an achievable thing without massive costs, and done so using simplistic technology.  After all, it landed using air bags, explored using a souped up Tyco RC and sent data to us using communications equipment dating back to the mid seventies.  And we got good stuff out of it.  Panoramic color pictures of Mars, soil and mineral samples, we got weather data.  But the most important fact was that for the first time since the Challenger disaster, America was truly interested in the space program.  For the first time they were actually party to something new in space, not the same old Shuttle mission where they repair a satellite and bring emergency oxygen to Mir.  They could log onto the Internet and actually get live feeds from NASA.  And don’t think the people at NASA didn’t understand this.  Look at the whole “naming of the rocks” frenzy.  Did they give them scientifically oriented names?  No, they gave them pop culture oriented, groovy names like Scooby Doo and such.  I hazard to guess that if they had named places on the moon Mystery Machine Crater instead of Tychons Rift, we would have a permanent base there.  USA today placed it at eight.  What a bunch of dolts.”
    Aarron rubbed his non-existent goatee.  “Not bad Nagasaki.  Vince.”
    “Well, I’m kind of liking number nine.  The fact that all of the political fund raising scandals came out was interesting.  I say interesting in two ways.  First was that they were on both sides of the house.  Normally this kind of crap comes out from the minority party trying to take the chair from the majority party.  Also, you don’t often see thin kind of sniping during the second term of a president.  The second reason it was important was that fact that the bulk of America didn’t give a crap.  They are happy with the way the president is doing business.  The stock market is doing well, inflation and unemployment are at their lowest point since like ‘73, crime is declining as is drug use and teen pregnancy. All in all, people have said, “okay, maybe he isn’t the cleanest guy, buy by damn, things are good.”  And it is killing the Republicans.  They can’t dig up enough stuff to phase Clinton. He’s a second termer who got reelected on a platform of doing the same thing he has already been doing, and it worked.  The only reason the republicans keep doing this shit is in a vain hope that they will be able to spoil it for Gore when he runs in 2000.  That won’t happen.  What they really need to do is pass some serious campaign reform and then go balls to the wall to get Colin Powell to run.”
    “What about you Mercedes?”
    “Well, the story that I think is important never even made the USA Today top ten . . . imagine that.  I’m talking about the Promise Keepers deal.”
    Vince jumped up.  “I thought you swore that you would never bring up that religious nut roll again!  You swore on a damn Bible for the love of Doug.  You can never trust a gun-toting, fashion model psychologist”
    “Suck it down Vince, remember, I’m the one here with the automatic weapons and the lack of social morality to use them.”
    “You were saying.”
    “As you all know, I’ve never been big on the whole feminist agenda, in fact I was once told that I set the movement back ten years when I marched topless back in ‘81.  But I was amused to no end when NOW went ape shit over these Promise Keeper cats coming out of the woodwork (or the backwoods) and said that it was time for men to be more responsible in their actions.  These feminists started slinging around those handy, attention-getting catch phrases that all special interest groups have in their inventories.  They started calling them sexists, and woman haters.  The more radical ones said that they were encouraging the view that women should be in the kitchen, pregnant.  And the press acquiesced, just like they did during the Mission Man March, because nobody wants to be seen in league with a racist, or an anti-Semite, or a sexist, even if that entity is on no way any of the above.  Fear and intimidation made what could have been an important moment in American male social responsibility, nothing more than a news blurb and fodder for Pat Buchannan and Geraldine Ferraro.”
    Vince seemed relieved, at what I’m not quite sure of, but the Professor kept us moving right along, coming to me.  Now I really wasn’t prepared, partly due to the fact that all of the good ones had been taken.  You may be saying to yourself, “hey, if you agree with one of the others, just say so and spare yourself the pain.” If you said this, then you do not understand how these little debates occur with the Professor.  I would be verbally blistered in an egregious fashion for jumping on someone else’s bandwagon.  Trust me on this one, I still have scars for agreeing with Vince that Lucky Charms were better than Trix.
    “I’m really not prepared.”
    “Answer the question!”
    “Fine!  You want to know what I think was the most important story of 1997!  Well I think it was the fact that the tobacco industry was finally willing to deal with the issue of weather it was bad for you. They wanted to cut a 368 billion-dollar deal if they would be protected from any further litigation.  And for some dam reason, Congress didn’t make a decision!  When are people going to realize the truth?  Smoking is addictive and it kills.  I’ve been smoking since I was 19 and I am hooked.  But you know what?  I like it.  No matter what the commercials say, smoking is cool.  Even those who are against smoking know it’s cool because we are playing Russian Roulette with death.  Teens know it’s cool because teens are rebellious and if society says its bad, they are going to do it.  Smoking calms me down when I’m stressed because nicotine is a narcotic and everyone knows narcotics make you feels good, if only for a while.  Of course a drop of pure nicotine the size of a pinhead will kill you instantaneously, but like I said, Russian Roulette.  It’s cheaper that marijuana or Crack, and best of all, it’s legal.  You don’t see people trying to recoup the money for all of the damage that alcohol has caused.  Cigarettes kill people, but it does it in their later years. Alcohol kills most of its victims when they are young.  So I say if you are going to screw with my smokes, then you need to remove all alcohol from the shelves too. Otherwise shut the hell up and let me get my fricking cancer in peace.  Jesus!”
    “Benson.”
    “What!  What do you want now? I said my peace, now leave me alone!”
    “Need a light?”
    Uhh.
    “Moving right along.  All of you made valid points when it comes to deciding the most important even of ‘97, but as always, you are off base . . . especially you Mister Benson.”
    Oh blow me.
    “Mother Teresa’s death.”
    We were all pretty stunned at that one.  I mean we all knew that he wouldn’t have brought some non-story deal like that JonBenet Ramsey deal, but this was a shocker.”
    “Aarron, you’re an Atheist.”
    “So.”
    “She was, if you weren’t aware of it, Catholic, like nun Catholic, not just a chick like my Aunt Linda who we all called aunt but wasn’t related to us in any way . . . just someone who related to us.”
    “And your point is . . .”
    “She was a Catholic nun from India.”
    “People, I know all of this.  The fact remains that I feel that the death of Mother Teresa was the most significant event of 1997.  If it wasn’t for the fact that she died within days of that Diana thing, the world would have been in absolute mourning for a truly great woman.  If fact the diametric opposition of the way those two people lived will be used heavily in the argument supporting my choice.”
    “No need Aarron, we agree with you,” we all said.  If only it was that easy.
    “Here, you have a woman, born and raised in the dankest pit in the world, seeing nothing but despair and suffering.  Yet she was able to take comfort in a faith in something, albeit God.  this faith strengthened her resolve to help.  So she became a nun, aiding those who had fallen into despair.  She didn’t just do the couple years missionary work then head back to the sanctuary of church.  She stayed in the filth ridden, poverty stricken areas where the people she cared for lived.  And yet the public embraces a woman who was raised in the lap of Victorian luxury.  A pretty little rich child who married a Prince.  And we ate the whole Cinderella story up.  Then she got divorced and yet the world still embraced this anorexic, adulteress.  So to clean up her public image she took on causes, and one day, while making the gestures, she suddenly has a pang of remorse and actually decided to truly give a crap.”
    “Whereas Mother Theresa spent her lifetime in the service of the so called kind and just God, aiding those poor unfortunate people that suffered the worst at his hands, Diana was pitied for her eating disorder and how she had no privacy.  It’s fucking tough being rich, beautiful and popular.  Mother Teresa did not look good, and was not rich, but among the Catholic faithful, she was a saint.  When Diana spoke about land mines or AIDS, governments looked up from their agenda, threw a elegant dinner ball, got their picture taken with the princess babe, said they’d do something, then go back to business as usual.  When Mother Teresa spoke to a government, they sat up and listened and then took action.  She knew the pressure religion bears on a society, and used it to help others.”
    “Diana died in an auto wreck, in Paris, being chased by photographers, driven by her drunk chauffeur after visiting her gazillionaire Egyptian boyfriend.  Yet we mourn her death for over three weeks, blocking the real news and information from being passed and to this day are still seeing bits about it in the news.”
    “Mother Teresa, the only person that most people in this world actually looked to and said, she is the example of the good that can be found in religion, died among the people she dedicated her entire life helping.  The woman whose worldwide charity helps millions, passed away as a bi-line in the back of your local newspaper.”
    “And I swear this on whatever thing each and every one of you hold sacred, if they give Diana a posthumous Nobel Peace Prize, I will invest my entire personal fortune in the manufacture and distribution of land mines.  To do otherwise would allow an injustice of titanic proportions to occur, for it would invalidate not only the Nobel that was awarded to Mother Teresa, but to every other individual who justifiable endeavored to make this a better world.”
    “And if you say Amen Mister Benson, I’ll have Mercedes put two bullets in your skull.”
    Damn.

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