A Dystopia Called Nacerima

When I was a boy, one of my grade school teachers passed out a Social Studies article about a faraway country called Nacirema. This crazy place was inhabited by natives with strange grooming habits and fanciful modes of transportation and peculiar foods — or at least it seemed that way based on the descriptions. Eventually, we children came to understand Nacirema was our very own America, only backwards. Whoa! Intense! 

Scanning the newspapers of late provides plenty of Nacirema moments. The evolved, modern, advanced republic we like to think we inhabit seems at times to be slipping ever closer to the primordial muck of our pre-Cambrian ancestors, as though thousands of years of art and science, religion and government, has undone civilization, not formed it. Our utopian instincts have been replaced by a semi-functional dystopia, where, Nacirema-like, everything is backwards.

To wit: A United States senator is caught in a Minnesota toilet stall soliciting sex (from another man). The nation, aghast, calls for his head. Members of his party — Republican — professing an unwillingness to judge their fellow man, judge the senator to be unworthy of his office and call for his immediate resignation and banishment to Idaho, the state that produced the depraved creature, who, per his Party’s line, has railed against homosexuality in the usual biblical terms (abomination; contrary to God’s will; etc., etc.). While most commentators obsess about the senator’s hypocrisy, almost no one in Nacirema asks why the great state of Minnesota is devoting a penny of tax payer dollars to have an undercover officer sit in airport toilet stalls and entrap closeted homosexuals in search of consensual liaisons. The senator neither exposed himself in public nor consummated any sort of private act. He merely made a signal to someone else he thought was looking for a hook-up — something that happens at airport bars hundreds of times a day, mostly between heterosexuals. In Nacirema, though, having different sexual preferences is still worthy of ridicule and punishment. One can only thank his divine protector that one is straight, and that the undercover officer wasn’t around when one enjoyed an airport quickie with his wife during a long layover in Minneapolis! And for those still contemplating joining the “mile-high club,” think again.

To wit: A new movie comes out involving sex and espionage among attractive Asians. Although the Jews who run the studios assure honest Naciremans that the movie, directed by an Asian fellow who happened to win the Academy Award for his last picture — about gay cowboys — is NOT pornography, the folks who look out for the easily scandalized award the film a NC-17 rating. After all, it portrays adults having sex. Meanwhile, the same week, nearly a dozen movies are released that portray a menagerie of characters being shot, slashed, decapitated, crushed, suffocated, and disemboweled. Half of these movies are awarded a PG-13 rating, meaning a young resident of Nacirema is supposed to have a parent accompanying him to explain that it’s all just imaginary — something that is evident to those above the age of 14. The other half earn an R. None garner an NC-17 — because that’s reserved for the really sick stuff. The lovemaking stuff.

To wit: An additional 30,000 young citizens of Nacirema are sent to a faraway land called Qari, where they are employed as underpaid police officers in an anarchic nation of religious zealots. The leadership of Nacirema calls these sacrificial lambs “heroes” and denounces as unpatriotic anyone who would dare suggest that there is nothing heroic about being treated like a disposable bomb-and-bullet target. Those crazy Naciremans! They don’t support the war, but they “support the troops.” Of course they do. Someone has got to make the sacrifices so that all the other zany residents of Nacirema can continue to enjoy their comical, backwards lifestyle. You know, they drive around in these enormous tank-like conveyances called VUSs…

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