A few months back, I wanted to inject the term Lifeboat Americans into the political discourse. I felt, and feel, that it expresses so much about what is wrong with the United States these days. There’s a goodly percent of the population who believe they live in a terrifying, dystopian nightmare wherein the grand ship of state — the world’s oldest constitutional democracy, possessors of the largest economy on Earth and the most powerful military in the history of the known universe this side of the Cylon Fleet — has foundered on the troubled waters of history and is irrevocably sinking beneath the waves. Lifeboat Americans are those who behave as if they have already been cast away from the security of their  national mother-ship and must now survive through their feral wit, tribal allegiances and their willingness to smash an oar into the head of anyone who dares swim close to what little they have left.

This thought came to me a during the quickly forgotten “border crisis” when 60,000 children from Honduras, Guatemala and El Salvador arrived at the Texas / Mexico frontier and turned themselves over to federal agents, weatherworn and bedraggled. Cue the freak out from the Right. For weeks those of us who make a point of paying attention to the frantic and angry bugs in the minor media were treated to cruel headlines and breathless reporting about an invasion of diseased young gang members who would cut your throat without batting an ojo. After a month or so, when the story spread beyond the troglodytes of conservative radio and the internet, public opinion began to turn against those who shrieked that feeding and sheltering hungry children was the equivalent of fraternizing with the enemy. Still, Fox News was right there to catch a good couple of weeks of the crazy and the whole country got a look at some Lifeboat Americans lining up at the gunwales of their own terrified lives, protecting what’s theirs from the grubby hands of Latino children.

They were the folks who made signs and shouted hate at kids who could aptly be referred to as “huddled masses, yearning to breathe free.” These folks bemoaned the coming death of America unless these future rapists and thugs-in-waiting were not sealed off from the American Olympus of flat-screen TVs.

There were also higher profile Lifeboat Americans clamoring for the spotlight, warning that these kids were nothing but disease vectors and tiny rapists. Representative Phil Gingrey (R-Loopyville, GA) claimed that there were reports that “illegals’” like these children were carrying Ebola into the United States. Representative Michele Bachmann (R-Crazytown, MN) claimed that the children were “invaders,” who were “penetrating” our nation; while Representative Steve Stockman (R-Reptile Brain, TX) observed, incorrectly, of course, that “There are more people coming across the border than invaded France in World War II.”

Ahhhhhhh! Head for the hills! America is being overrun by gang-thugs and Ebola-children!

For heaven’s sake, you knock-kneed simians — they’re kids! Moreover, shut the sweet hell up about how your ancestors may have been immigrants, but they followed the rules, dadgumit! Here’s the truth: If your ancestors were European and landed on the shores of the United States prior to 1921, then there were ZERO laws to follow. Paddy Tallon, Paula Tallonio or Pavel Tallonski all sailed through the ports of entry in the United States without a hitch or a visa. America was a rather more welcoming place back then. Well, with the exception of the way Chinese migrants were treated. That was wholly despicable.

What is odd is that only six years ago, these Lifeboat Americans — though easily whipped to a lather — seemed satisfied enough with the world. Only the most effervescent of the froth-mouthed fringe were polishing their guns and dreaming of Second Amendment remedies if elections didn’t go their way. Fox News was not predicting that a tyrannical federal government was planning to imprison Christian preachers in FEMA concentration camps or gun down ranchers because they hate freedom. Something happened deep down in the troubled, fearful psyches of these folks sometime around late 2008.

I wonder what it was.



In the era before the anti-colonial Kenyan, Mau-Mau, radical black Christian, Muslim, secretly gay, atheist, socialist Usurper-in-Chief took the reins of power, and despite being lashed by two wars — one pungently stupid in conception, the other managed as if by the Minions from Despicable Me — there was no talk about the American apocalypse being scheduled for next Tuesday afternoon. Even when the economy plunged an annualized 9.6% in the fourth quarter of 2008, Incurious George and No-Drama Obama were able to cobble together a recovery plan that actually prevented a calamity of global-economy-eating force.

But things are different now. Now there are dozens of imagined terrors upon the land for those inclined to knee-buckling, bed-wetting and militia-forming. Yet, reluctantly, I’ve given up on viralizing the metaphor of Lifeboat Americans. I tried it with friends and adversaries and the truth is it takes too long to explain. It requires a set-up, a preexisting narrative into which the concept can be slipped. All of that handicaps the utility of that beautiful phrase. I’m saddened, but I’ve also got to accept that there’s a more commonly used term in the English language that does the work almost as well. It doesn’t have the swagger of being a personal bon mot,  but it does have a certain ease of utilitarian convenience.

That said: I’ve had it up to here (note: the author indicates his adult-onset fontanelle) with Chickenshit Americans. Seriously, I just don’t know how much more pants-befouling I can take. No matter how end-of-the-worldy you feel, the United States isn’t going anywhere for quite some time, so rather than climbing in the grave and pulling the earth in above you, grow a pair — testicles or ovaries, as you wish — and have some faith.

Read the latest essay by the Surly Bartender, The 400-Year Hope, here!

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I’ve gotta tell you, for a kid who grew up as a liberal Democrat in the 1980s, it feels sooooooooooo good to call out right wing Republicans for being a bunch of chickenshits. I can’t tell you how many times in my life some Izod wearing, pop-collared frat boy gave voice to the brown-shirted blowhard mantra of “Hey, buddy! This here is America! If you don’t love it, why don’t you get the fuck out!”

Well, the straps on the other jock now, asshole. So why not sit down and learn something useful. I’ll try to speak in your vernacular.

Broseph, you are not going to die of Ebola. No one you know will ever get Ebola. As I type this essay, there is currently one person in the United States with Ebola and he is on the mend. Now, why don’t you stop being a chickenshit, stop calling for a travel ban or a higher fence along the southern border, and help. Call your congressional representative and demand they support sending assistance to the three West African nations that are presently suffering from an outbreak. That would help eliminate the disease at its source.

Brah, ISIS is not going to behead your girlfriend. Stop being such a chickenshit. Those fools are a problem, but a manageable one. The one real threat they pose to “the homeland,” is them getting their hands on enough radiological material for a dirty bomb and then sneaking it into a place that is not where you live. To be fair, that generalized threat is still out there, but greatly diminished by the Obama administration’s commitment to achieve the goals of the Nunn-Lugar Cooperative Threat Reduction Program (later known as the Lugar-Obama Plan, from the President’s time in the Senate).

Since taking office the Obama administration has removed nearly 1,400 kilograms of highly enriched uranium and plutonium from the world supply. It has removed all weapons-usable nuclear material from Romania, Taiwan, Libya, Turkey, Chile, Serbia, Mexico, Sweden and Ukraine — how do you like the foresight on that one, Ducky? They have also finished upgrading the security to more than 1,000 storage facilities around the world, holding enough nuclear material for 10,000 dirty bombs and eliminated more than 10,000 at-risk radiological sources worldwide.

There’s more that they’ve done in this regard, but given the threat of terrorism from ISIS, al Q’aida or folks betting their bottom dollar on the Rapture arriving soon, the world is far safer than it was in the years before the black guy moved into the White House, no matter how much that unnerves your bladder.

Dude, no one is coming to wage war on Christmas. There is nowhere in the United States that is in danger of falling under sharia law. You will not be fighting like Patrick Swayze in the mountains of Colorado against a tyrannical enemy with your drinkin’ buddies.

C3P-Bro, the Russian annexation of Crimea is not an existential threat to the United States, though it could seriously do damage to Moscow’s place in the world. How is it that your chickenshit mind ends up with the calculation that Russia is winning this confrontation with Washington? They are facing the very real potential of there being a civil war on their western border — rather inconveniently situated between themselves and their largest trading partner. So, calm the fuck down. Take a Xanax. Smoke some weed that is now legal in many parts of the United States thanks to your brave, forceful and fearless progressive friends.

Homeslice, why are you so terrified about building a better America, even if that costs some national jingle? Calmly put down the Ayn Rand novel and the Milton Friedman paper. Believe it or not, it’s okay to tax rich people more than we’re currently doing. The nation has thrived through eras with far higher rates on the wealthy, and there weren’t even any billionaires back then! Moreover, money has never, ever been cheaper. Let’s take out some more loans now to pay for all the shizzle we really need to get done — like rebuilding our roads and rail lines, our energy grid and our flight-control network. Let’s build public hospitals and schools. Let’s make the whole damn country WiFi accessible. Let’s hire teachers, give raises to police officers and firemen. Let’s build our way out of a sluggish economy. You whined in fear about the spiraling debt at the beginning of Obama’s time in office, but the annual deficit has come down every year he’s been in office and is now a third of what it was in 2009. You drive on the same shitty roads as the rest of us, you know we’ll have to fix them eventually. So why are you letting your chickenshit, lily-livered selves get in the way of locking in some low, low rates! Stop being such pussies. Believe in the future of your nation!

Let’s raise the minimum wage. Let’s invest in new energy sources. Let’s correct the despicable injustice of the drug laws in this country and let non-violent, small-change drug offenders out of prison and clear their records so they can work. Let’s stop with the crazy-eyed certainty that we’re surrounded by marauders and dirty, dangerous foreigners that we must arm ourselves against with ever more powerful guns.

To the Chickenshit Americans, the Lifeboat Americans out there, I ask: What the hell fills your sack? Cotton? Dry air? Sponges? Stop being such fuckin’ wimps. The future is uncertain and full of opportunities. It always has been. Embrace the frontier.

To the rest of you, I ask that you stop giving these Chickenshits a pass. Call them out on the cowardice. Call ’em yella. As the Surly Bartender’s journalistic hero Edward R. Murrow once said, “We will not walk in fear, one of another. We will not be driven by fear into an age of unreason if we dig deep in our history and our doctrine and recall that we are not descended from fearful men . . .”

Remember that.

Read the latest essay by the Surly Bartender, The 400-Year Hopehere!

Purchase (for ONE DOLLAR) the latest issue of La Cuadra for your phone or e-reader here!

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About the Author

Michael Tallon, Editor-in-Chief, head writer and delivery boy, of La Cuadra Magazine, expatriated from the States 11 years ago. After spending a year in Antigua gasbagging about wanting to start an English Language magazine, he hit the road and wandered about South America, India and Nepal before finding himself sipping tea in Darjeeling and realizing that maybe it was time to head home and pick up the career path. That ill-fated adventure in New York lasted about 6 weeks before he headed back to Antigua, Guatemala, where John Rexer had actually started the magazine in his absence.

After a few months, Mike took over the magazine and has been going slowly broke since. On that note, Mike would like to invite advertisers, readers and potential patrons to send him free money.