Can I Be Ben Franklin With You?
A number of years ago, doing my regular job as a reporter on a midsized daily newspaper, I had to attend a press conference for a local anti-poverty group that runs one of those heating assistance programs.
I was leafing through their literature, and I noticed that to get the help with your heating bills, you had to bring proof of residence.
One of the things you could bring was your cable television bill.
I'd like to say I was "offended," because I've noticed the word "offended" is the word you use if you want to sue the company employing you.
I'd also like to say I was "outraged," because if I had been "outraged," I might have founded the tea party. If I had founded the tea party, my book "Storming the Castle: Killing the Scum Who Threaten America," would now be in its second printing and I would be halfway through my second wife, who would no doubt be quite the piece of pastry.
Neither thing happened, though. Instead, I went back to the office and wrote a story about how to get fuel assistance. Then, I ate a bologna sandwich with mustard.
Later, scraping a bit of mustard off my shirt with the fingernail of my right-hand index finger, I decided that, as the economy got worse, I was gonna keep an unprofessional, not-too-mathematical eye on cable and, later, satellite television.
And now, with the officially recession-free economy spinning off new poor people like a Roman candle spitting sparks, I'm still noticing that hardly anyone is canceling their cable television or getting rid of their satellite dish.
Lotta big-screen HDTVs out there, too.
Which is fine. The Founding Fathers wanted you to make your own decisions about how to spend your hard-earned money. If "Golden Girls" re-runs, porn and the NFL are what you want to spend your "In God We Trust" imprinted cash on, then do so proudly.
My friends and acquaintances, many of whom are nearly paupers or at least working for well under $20 an hour, are not rising up like Minutemen, taking the musket down over the fireplace and shooting the dish off the side of the house. The revolution's gotta start somewhere, but it's not going to start by throttling "NFL Sunday Ticket."
I ask people sometimes. They tell me how they're getting screwed by big government and corporate America and the banks, and I ask them if they've cancelled cable or gotten rid of the satellite dish.
They have not.
Which is, of course, great for the economy, since the numerous freelance paid-by-the-job, scare-the-hell-out-of-my-wife cable installers need work, too.
The homeless have, of course, given up their cable, which is probably why they're so damned cranky when I tell 'em I don't have any spare change.
The worst of the homeless are so filthy they can't even get served in bars, where they could at least watch cable for free. Those guys have to content themselves with the free Internet at the public library, where strict attention to the will of The Founders means you can use a computer even if you smell like malt liquor, old blood and vomit. The homeless, do I have to say, are the heirs of Benjamin Franklin.
That would be the start of a great joke, too.
Ben Franklin walks into a bar, but he's homeless and he smells like malt liquor, old blood and vomit.
"Get outta here, ya freakin' loser!" the bartender yells.
Ben leaves, but suddenly the big open sore on his skinny, white left leg gives him a twinge, probably signaling the beginning of gangrene.
Ben falls to the sidewalk in a reeking heap and looks up.
The sign over the bar reads, "Poor Richard's Tavern — Sunday Is Hot Wings Nite. HDTV!!!!"
To find out more about Marc Munroe Dion and read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit www.creators.com
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