Inflatable Uncle Sams R US

Dear President Biden,

I bet you’re pretty toasty at this point. Maybe crispy is a better descriptor if your fussiness with that CNN reporter is any indication of how ready you are to get back state side so you can sleep in your (sort of) own bed.

Since I don’t have the patience or energy tonight to do a careful parse through the reports and opinions about your summit with Putin, I’m going to tell you about a pretty ridiculous, early 4th of July decoration I spotted on my walk this morning. There’s a lovely brick house a couple of blocks south of us where the people always go all out with their Halloween decorations, to include a cadaverous looking butler mannequin who gets posted up in the front window for most of the fall every year. This is the first time, though, that I’ve noticed any 4th of July swag. The butler is gone from the window (for now) and in his place is a small wooden-looking toy Uncle Sam standing on some toy trains, but the real eye catcher is outside – it’s an inflated Uncle Sam sitting astride a rocket and holding a little sign that says “God Bless America.” I kid you not. Someone, somewhere, is making such things and people in my neighborhood are buying them.

In case you want to check it out for yourself, here’s the url I searched, which, if you click, will give you the choice of spending just over $100 for the thing if you buy it from Walmart or  $75 if you buy it from Amazon. Or you can go for an even cheesier, cheaper version that’s half a foot longer from either Amazon or Etsy. Or you could opt for the 12’ (I think) inflatable American flag tube from BannerBuzz for $91.85. Really, the options are just endless. We sure know how to get other countries to make plastic crap for us, don’t we?

You can probably tell that I’m feeling jaded and cynical. And tired. Really, really tired.

When I saw White old Uncle Sam with his pointless little sign jauntily perched on his “rocket” and thought about how you were probably meeting with Putin around that same time, I mostly felt sad. I know there are plenty of things we can be proud of about American culture, but dang if there aren’t a lot of dumb (insipid, wasteful, environmentally catastrophic) things about US, including this useless plastic thing my neighbors are using a bunch of electricity to keep perpetually inflated.

I don’t want to live in a viciously repressive autocracy, but that plastic thing, and all the other plastic things like it, seriously makes one wonder why it is we’re so hot to defend our way of life. It also seriously makes one (ok, me) wonder how the hell we’re ever going to curb our appetite for STUFF we don’t need, and relatedly, whether we have a snowball’s chance in hell of doing anything meaningful about climate change. I shan’t hold my breath.

And I know we can’t give up.

May we be safe from our own myopic appetites.
May we have the will to stop with the environmentally catastrophic accumulation of crap.
May we figure out how to take care of our planet’s health.
May we accept that there are limits.

Tracy Simpson

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