Red, White and Screwed
Expanded from the 6-4-2006 Daily Sparks (Nev.) Tribune
UPDATED 6-11-2006

Regrets. Sorry. I blew it. Pardonez moi. My bad. Mea culpa, mea culpa, mea maxima culpa.

On behalf of all us old people (anybody over 30), I apologize to the kids who graduated over the past couple of weeks. We've not only screwed you over, we've lied to you, starting with your commencement speakers, those primly proper presenters of fractured fairy tales.

At a couple of high school commencements in Arizona last month, I witnessed an endless parade of C-minus thinking and D-minus writing. I suffered through muddled metaphors – high school as a pair of shoes or the life of Thomas Edison, a documented thief. Some jock actually compared high school to a Big Mac.

For the past 400 years or so, forests have perished publishing cliches rooted in Shakespeare's "all the world's a stage and all the men and women merely players" – even Elvis used that one.

There seems to be an endless supply of bad derivatives. People are part of a rainbow, a beehive or a mystical body of Christ. But reducing me to sandwich components could turn me vegetarian.

Apparently, no teacher intervened to show the kid that his analogy had potential as satire. By placing tongue firmly in cheek, society can indeed be compared to a Big Mac. Some people are toasted buns before they know it, many get vegged out, others become squishy condiment packets in the pantry of life and the unlucky few are dead meat.

Alas, this jock never recognized the potential in his example, opting for a speech as bland as special sauce.

I saw senator written all over him.

The graduation ceremonies I attended manifested a microcosm of America in her dotage, a nation in denial, ignoring hardening of the arteries in her body politic.

Both student bodies were much like northern Nevada high schools, mostly white buns. No matter the ingredients, I saw three different worlds largely unaware of each other.

Up front were the usual suspects: school administrators with more college degrees than good sense who would mispronounce the names of the paroled.

One principal introduced four – count 'em, four – salutatorians who never got to do anything but salute the flag and suffer through the godawful Battle Hymn of the Republic. (Military-religious songs are always appropriate for this nation of conservatively compassionate predators, but Elvis has been dead 29 years come August. Isn't it time to recognize that rock 'n' roll won the battle for hearts and minds of this particular republic?)

Time was that the salutatorian was the senior with the second-highest grade-point average who was charged with delivering a brief welcome to set the tone of the event.

The four salutatori said nada. Only the senior class president (politics as usual) and two valedictorians were allowed to speak.

Grade inflation brought all those extra kids onstage. A grade point average of 4.0 means you never got the lowly grade of "B" at anything, even P.E. Everyone but the politician sported a GPA of 4.6 and up, oxymoronically beyond perfection.

Below the exalted sat hundreds of silken youth who expressed their interest in the proceedings by blowing up and bouncing around smuggled beach balls. (They at least found a use for those rented gowns.) Aghast teachers tried to confiscate offending missiles. One cool educator, as bored as his students, offered a paper airplane to the graduate next to him. My kinda guy.

The assembled multitudes in the stands largely inhabited another planet. Speeches were often smothered by familial war whoops punctuated by flatulent air horns honked by those to whom everything is a low-class sporting event. Perhaps such compressed gas bleating was appropriate, because that's what sheep do best.

School administrators talked past their students. High achievers said what higherups wanted to hear. The kids ignored the banalities and had fun using inflatables as surrogates for the finger, while their parents treated graduation like a wrestling match.

I could have forgiven all of this if anyone – anyone – had stood up and told the kids the truth. You're screwed. Your greedy elders have sold you and your country out, and cheaply at that.

Your jobs have been sent to China, Indonesia and Bangladesh. Mexicans and Central American immigrants are merely reacting to the sacred free market's supply and demand. The U.S. jobs we transferred south a generation ago are moving to Asia where workers make 50 cents a day rather than exorbitant Latin-American wages of two bucks. (Weren't those jobs we exported supposed to stop the flow of illegal immigrants?)

Adding insult to personal injury (the ear-splitting hollers of mindless teens), several speakers told the young victims to blame themselves if the real world gets rough. Those who discover that they actually cannot do anything to which they set their impossible-dreaming minds were advised that failure would be their own damned fault. Adulthood launched with a guilt trip.

No one mentioned the deck stacked against these kids by politicians and corporations which have ensured that new graduates' prospects have been drastically diminished at birth: Underfunded schools with the populations of small cities, a toxic physical environment with air filled with lead from both guns and smokestacks, a Constitution in shreds.

Ignoring the increasing unaffordability of college, I saw principals dwell on all the scholarships and loans available – mere corks offered to stop a New Orleans flood of rising costs and debt.

Where did all the money go? War and paper shuffling. As author Kevin Phillips notes in his new bestseller American Theocracy, we are now a nation principally engaged in shuffling money and selling houses to each other rather than manufacturing beneficial products.
Get the book, kids, don't wait for the movie.

Memorial Day commemorated our war dead and the expiration of your youth. You weren't told about it at graduation, but we've largely relegated your future to a flag-waving graveyard, too. I'll try my best to help you dig out.

Hope you had a happy holiday anyway.

Be well. Raise hell.

Smoking Guns

APOLOGETICS: "Red, White and Screwed" is the title of an upcoming HBO comedy special starring the irascible Daily Show commentator Lewis Black, whom Mr. Barbano hopes won't be too angry at this expropriation of his very appropriate title for this Memorial Day memoriam to America.

UPDATED 6-11-2006

Red, White and Screwed, Part Deux


AIRING IT OUT: Andrew Barbano will again participate in peerless pontification and punditry on Sam Shad's soirée this Thursday, June 8. Mr. Shad and Reno Gazette-Journal reporter Ray Hagar will interview UN,R football coach Chris Ault. Shad, Hagar and Barbano will be joined in the pundit panel portion by former Nevada Assembly Speaker Bill Bilyeu, R-Elko, and fellow attorney Alfredo Alonso. Nevada Newsmakers premieres Monday through Thursday at 12:30 p.m. on KRNV TV-4 (NBC) and reruns on Charter cable channel 12 in Washoe, Carson and Douglas counties on the same day. Click here for the full statewide radio/TV schedule. Turn on, tune in and tell a friend.

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Copyright © 1982, 1984, 1996, 2004, 2005, 2006 Andrew Barbano

Andrew Barbano is a 37-year Nevadan, editor of, and webmaster of His opinions are strictly his own. Barbwire by Barbano has originated in the Daily Sparks (Nev.) Tribune since 1988.


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