On the cultural scale, the high-living guru who led five-day "Spiritual Warrior" workshops for $10,000 and told participants "It's okay to die," was just convicted of three counts of negligent homicide. Whether he will serve any jail time remains to be seen, but at least one former participant ran straight to a church to be saved. Does this prove that Americans will go for any nutty belief?
Also this week, flights from Washington's Reagan Airport were grounded when a woman told airport workers about a bomb on a plane. She claimed God told her so. Considering the number of Americans in direct communication with God, including former presidents and innumerable GOP presidential aspirants, it's a wonder more flights aren't grounded.
Recently, Ryan Dunn, one of the stars of the crude gross-out movie, Jackass, died after crashing his $130,000 Porsche that blew up in a fireball. The star, who recently played a "party bum slacker" and became famous for sticking a toy car up his derriere, was found to have driven 140 mph with twice the state legal limit of alcohol in his blood. Judging from his popularity, Americans love stupid stunts that feature jumping into raw sewage, launching port-a-potties filled with excrement into the air, and playing with explosives.
On the Christian front, a "non-fiction" best seller by an 11-year-old boy who claims to have died when he was four years old and gone to heaven, where he met his dead relatives and John the Baptist, topped the charts of The New York Times. Co-written by Sarah Palin's ghostwriter, a small Bible publishing company printed 3.5 million copies that are selling like hot cakes. With such gullible people, Americans will believe anything.
With American cultural life dominated by whacky, outrageous and thoughtless humor, is it any wonder that politics will follow along the same lines? The biggest national spectacle includes an uproariously funny GOP midgets for president campaign. Judging from the issues they bring up, one wonders if the GOP presidential contenders are running against Jackass, The Movie, more than against each other.
Polls bounce like an NBA basketball as each new flavor-of-the-day aspirant makes an announcement, old favorites backtrack on positions, and hopefuls genuflect before the cranky Tea Party and fundamentalist Christians.
The main party pushes the same old GOP mantra-no taxes, no regulation and turn the economy over to the all-problem-solving free market-as they huddle together like Nazis in a ditch. Each new day brings another scheme about how to destroy the government, run down Obama, and return America to the 1880s.
Republicans hope Americans will forget about their key role in the greatest economic disaster since the great Depression. They hope everyone will ignore the facts that federal tax rates are the lowest since the 1960s, Bush tax cuts for the rich added almost $4 trillion to the deficit in ten years, and two unnecessary wars killed over a million people and cost $3 trillion. These erstwhile Bush Cheerleaders, who seek to destroy Medicare and Social Security, give 4-year-olds and anus stuffers a run for their money.
Turning to the candidates themselves, it's hard to keep a straight face. Now over 40 contenders hope to become the next GOP candidate for president, although several are already being counted out.
Serial adulterer Newt Gingrich, cheated on several wives because of how "passionately (he) felt about his country," married one adulteress, and announced his run for president after achieving "God's forgiveness." He subsequently disappeared on a two-week cruise because his wife demanded his presence. Afterwards, he pledged to include his wife in all his decisions for his "big idea" campaign, after his whole campaign staff resigned.
Billionaire real estate developer and four-time bankrupt Donald Trump recently dropped out of the race after loudly questioning President Obama's American citizenship. The birthers' relentless campaign convinced 62% of Americans to doubt that Obama was definitely born in the U.S. Trump dropped out after Obama released his birth certificate, and now 64% of voters say they will definitely not vote for Trump.
Former governor of Alaska and media star Sarah Palin has an even worse rating-65 % dislike her-after she targeted Arizona representative Gabrielle Giffords with a bull's eye in January, prompting a Republican nutcase to shoot her. Palin's admonishment "Don't Retreat, Instead-Reload," gaffs about events such as Paul Revere's Ride to "warn the British," and recently trademarking her name so she can sue anyone who makes fun of her, work against her nomination. Nevertheless, her kooky antics still gain media attention.
Current headline grabbers battle over who is the best Mormon, whether we should promote a cross in every schoolroom and a Constitutional amendment against gay marriage, how to sell off government services to the highest bidder, and end Medicare, Social Security and child labor laws. And this is only the beginning of the campaign.
Stay tuned for more bizarre, strange and freakish footnotes to America's upcoming presidential election.
Commentary by Don Monkerud, an Aptos, California-based writer who follows cultural issues and politics and writes occasional satire.