Just about the last place I’d expect to see any signs of political discontent would be in a mall.
Malls are after all common symbols of materialistic America, of homogeneity masquerading as choice and future poverty posing as present wealth courtesy of a piece of plastic. And yet behind the façade of prosperity and commercial content, something stirred.
I wandered into Borden’s Books to see if anything interesting might catch my eye. A couple of months ago I had bought Cobra II and the woman in front of me was buying The Assassin’s Gate.
At the front of the store on the “bargain” shelves one book had stood out. The jacket was a large photo portrait of Bush squinting at some imagined horizon and though I forget the exact title now it was about “How President Bush Restored Faith to the White House and America”. There were about twenty pristine copies and the price was $6 (down from $14).
Now the book was no longer there. I asked the salesperson about its fate. I was told that the ones I had seen had all been returned.
Right at the entrance to the store sat the newest arrivals. Mary Cheney’s “Now It’s My Turn” was prominent. I’d seen and heard her on the Sunday show being interviewed specifically about her new book claiming that John Kerry had used her sexuality for “sleazy” political advantage during a presidential debate.
My opinion of Cheney's book’s worth was already fixed, but what value did retail giant and “free market” entity Borden’s place on her work? Still warm from the printing presses and with the allotted space still undisturbed the cover boldly displayed a 25%-off sticker.
Still browsing I wandered over to the Humor section. The most obvious books there were Al Franken’s “The Truth with Jokes” and John Stewart’s “America” both published around 7 months ago. There was clearly some room to re-stock their respective shelf spaces. Neither of the books had discount stickers.
Borden’s had just been a distraction from my real objectives, so I left empty handed but encouraged. My primary objective was a “good” birthday card for my niece—she’ll be getting a present later when I go down to Washington to see her.
This was really an impossible mission; mall card shops are usually crap. My niece still thinks I’m cool (because I’m well-versed in Star Wars lore and she can run faster than me) so whenever I shop for her it’s always with fear. One of these days I just know I’m going to blow it.
Anyway so I’m trying to find a decent card, something that’s fun.
Ah! What’s this? “My friend Tom Delay and I were going to give you some money for your birthday” (flip to inside) “but he hasn’t finished laundering it yet”.
Huh? Hmmm! Not what I expected.
Then there was another card with a picture of an adorable kitten wearing a party hat. On top of the picture and classically askew was a “rubber stamp” that read; “NOTICE: THIS MAIL HAS BEEN RANDONLY SCREENED AND APPROVED BY THE U.S. DEPARTMENT OF HOMELAND SECURITY.” On the inside, half of the typical saccharine birthday wishes were crudely redacted.
I took that one for my brother and found a non-political one for my niece—she’s already capable of discussing reasonably with adults why Bush is a tool and I just don’t feel right about politicizing an 11-year-old’s birthday.
Duty done and pondering these subtle signs of sedition I went to get my eyes examined and buy some appropriate spectacles (inappropriate specs were completely out of the question).
The young woman handed me a notice explaining concerning disclosure of medical information. “I could read it all for you, but it basically says your medical information is private. You just need to sign that you understand that will make it official”. I signed it.
And then she said “Of course if President Bush or anyone from the Government wanted to see your records I’d have to hand them over and I wouldn’t be able to tell you, so it’s quite meaningless”.
Three different forms of dissent and disapproval hiding in plain sight in a mall. Maybe it’s not much, but then again maybe it means something. I certainly hope so.