The Common Good
April 2010

Supreme Court Earns Free Air Miles

by Ed Spivey Jr. | April 2010

'Opening the floodgates' for Happy Meals

The recent Supreme Court decision expanding corporate “personhood” in elections has opened up a new world of possibility, and not just that the Roberts majority can ride in Halliburton’s Gulfstream anytime it wants. It also changes who I could have dated in high school. Had I known that personhood would one day be constitutionally attributed to businesses, I might not have been so disappointed when the head cheerleader reluctantly declined to be my prom date.

I could have taken McDonald’s instead.
Walking in with a Happy Meal on my arm would have soothed the shock of seeing my first choice—thankfully recovered from the serious illness she anticipated when originally turning me down—crowned queen of the prom, with the football team captain as her king, an honor which, but for an unexpected illness, would have been mine.
Prom dates aside, however, I can’t think of any beneficiaries of the recent Court decision, except maybe ExxonMobil, which gave up the space between its two names to squeeze out the last shred of civic responsibility. For example, ExxonMobil denies global warming, a position which, thanks to the court ruling, it can now promote with the help of recently purchased politicians—with that great new-politician smell—who proudly wear the corporate logo on their lapels, just above the American flag pin. Of course, it might not be an American flag, since the court’s broad decision does not rule out foreign entities. But that’s okay, because other countries have nice-looking flags, too. China, to choose one at random, has a nice red background on its flag, and even a few stars, just like ours. And I doubt anybody would notice the difference, which is probably for the best.
Overriding the bedrock principles of the Founding Fathers could not have come at a worse time, since it distracted me from the vigilance I otherwise maintain during the Winter Olympics. In my Court-induced state of disbelief, I missed the telltale warning signs in my own home—faces drawn with anxiety, tears of empathy welling up in eyes reddened by the drama unfolding on television—and foolishly joined my family in the living room. Figure skating—the cruelest of sports—was on, and I was trapped. Despite years of successfully avoiding this monstrous family ritual by any means necessary, including feigned illnesses that left me bedridden for days, unnecessary errands to distant cities, and yard work that continued well into the darkness of evening (I once accidentally planted our cat), this year I got sloppy.
So I had to sit there, watching the pitiable spectacle of athletes who are judged for how long they can dance without falling down. And of course, smiling stoically when they do fall, even though they have just crushed their lifelong dreams, and those of their parents—who suddenly wanted a do-over on their lives, or at least the parts where they drove their kid to the rink at 4:30 every morning. You can’t even get coffee that early. (It’s called 7-Eleven, not 4:30-Eleven.)
I tried to resist, but like a deer caught in the klieg lights, I couldn’t turn away from the screen, waiting for that inevitable fall on ice in front of millions of people, most of whom were crying softly into their Happy Meals (which, as you know, make excellent prom dates). But, to be fair, who among us hasn’t fallen down in our skintight body suit with sequined wrap skirt and matching face glitter? My mother used to dress like that for church, and she fell lots of times.
But these are all just distractions from the new political reality. Even if the U.S. brings home Olympic gold, we’ll just have to melt it down to pay down the national debt. As the president has said, the Supreme Court “opened the floodgates” to special interests, and you know how bad we are with floods. The challenges to our nation are many, so I must gird myself not with sequined skirts—despite how fabulous I look—and put on the sensible shoes and loose-fitting armor of truth to resist threats to our democracy.
Despite my advanced age, I must rejoin the fight, because elderly people are our future. It used to be children, but they’re busy with Facebook.
Ed Spivey Jr. is art director of Sojourners. His book, A Hamster is Missing in Washington, D.C., is available at store.sojo.net.
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