(Your tax dollars at play)
Looking back, the trigger was easy to spot. The whole problem exploded when employees of the Securities & Exchange Commission were caught, during work hours, surfing the Internet for corn.
Understand, I’m hardly suggesting anybody could have predicted the resulting, culture-altering backlash, but you have to admit the trigger was easy to spot.
Well-paid government employees, people who work for us, using computers purchased by us, spending the workday staring at corn. And not just any run-on-the-mill, “non-essential” office gophers, either. These were the clever crew who, while the economy blew up, were supposed to be making sure the economy didn’t blow up.
Meanwhile, mortgage foreclosures were heating up quicker than Sean Penn’s temper. Retirement plans were shrinking faster than Larry King’s ratings. Jobs were harder to find than a gay rights activist at a west Texas rodeo. And some guy named Bernie made off with the entire city of Boston.
And what were our watchdogs doing? Trolling the Internet for pictures of vegetables. J’accuse!
Not that there’s anything intrinsically wrong with corn, mind you. I’m not here to judge, just to report. Some of my best friends like corn. But you don’t bring it to work, for heaven’s sake! You just don’t.
But with this final outrage, Joe Six-Pack had finally had enough. The Iced Tea Party demanded accountability and threatened to wear more buttons. The entire nation was fed up. And Congress, smelling blood (and votes), did what Congress does best.
Rather than address the abuse, Congress attacked the availability. Typical, eh? If someone were to misuse a library book, Congress’ solution would be to just close the library. Faced with outlaws on the streets, Congress would outlaw streets.
And so, in a rapid and rare bipartisan effort, Congress whipped up the 2010 Food Abuse Regulation Mandates: the FARM Act.
So here we are. A country without veggies. Criminalized corn and outlawed onions. A society sans sugar beets. A nation, self-banished from our own garden.
And so it began. A national task force was created, over-funded, and charged with policing Internet corn sites. At the state level, National Guard units were mobilized to padlock pole-bean-dancing clubs. The National Football League canceled their Super Bowl halftime highlighter, a popular band called The Black-Eyed Peas. The Jolly Green Giant was hauled in front of a Senate committee, who explained that though, technically, he wasn’t guilty of a crime, he wasn’t exactly helping matters by stomping around rural neighborhoods yelling “ho, ho, ho.”
A Cotton Mather madness descended upon America. A lemming-like lunacy. In small towns across the heartland, city councils and ad hoc civic committees sprang into action, policing produce departments and scrutinizing school lunch menus. One activist, Mayor Torvald Amquist of Elk Blister, Nebraska, addressed the news media: “I don’t know corn, but I know it when I see it.” Fortunately, other activists heard him, and he was immediately tackled, heavily sedated, and whisked away for observation.
A reporter for The Times claimed to have proof that a Midwestern flight that had recently overshot its airport was the result of pilots watching corn in the cockpit. Orville Redenbacher was hung in Effigy, Iowa, and arrested in Situ, South Dakota. And MSNBC claimed to have a compromising photo of Sarah Palin, but then they do that every week.
In one particularly conservative Wisconsin backwater, an alderman misread an evangelical tract, and as a result, mastication was declared a self-hate crime.
Farm subsidies skyrocketed, as farmers were paid more and more to grow less and less. As the news spread that farming now meant getting paid to not work, many career politicians abandoned their re-election campaigns, investing instead in a broad-brimmed hat and a pair of bib overalls.
As you might imagine, school kids were absolutely thrilled with this new “no more vegetables” national sentiment. Classrooms erupted in impromptu parades, and mock executions were held, during which various vegetables were beheaded. Brussels Sprouts, in particular, suffered greatly during these times.
Pro-produce groups were quick to challenge the new law. Willie Nelson, long an ardent farm supporter, called for a national boycott on beef, but was abducted by patrons of a South Carolina barbecue chain. Coordinated chapters of the Future Farmers of America organized a huge hunker-in on the Washington Mall, at the Tomb of the Unknown Thresher.
Of course, we’ve learned nothing from history. If you tax something, you’ll likely get less of it. And if you outlaw something, you’ll likely get more of it. That’s just the way people are wired. Once looking at corn was outlawed, black market produce markets started popping up on seedy inner-city side-streets. Geraldo Rivera hosted an investigative series on the rise of corn shops in Aruba. Cable networks capitalized on “grow-hibition” by rounding up B-list actresses and churning out low-budget, vegetably-suggestive movies with titles like “Maude Has A Salad” and “A Bell Pepper for Adano.”
In Chicago, cleverly disguised “maize liquor taverns” sprang up overnight. All along the US-Mexico border, tortilla smuggling reached epidemic proportions. And a password-protected eBay channel took bids on thousands of poorly-lit produce photos before the channel was shut down by the Cornography Czar.
Eventually, things calmed down and we went back to our favorite TV shows. Nothing really changed.
And, not surprisingly, nothing really changed in Washington, either. Within a month of the FARM Act’s passage, employees at Homeland Security were caught, during work hours, surfing the Internet for muslin.