12 June 2003

When You Ride Alone You Ride With Bin Laden

At first glance, When You Ride ALONE, You Ride With Bin Laden struck me as a preachy spiel chastising Americans to pitch in and carpool together as our wartime (yes, the vague, non-specific "War on Terror) sacrifice for our nation. I was surprised to discover that the title was a takeoff on a 1943 WWII poster created by a government state side campaign plea to urge Americans to conserve oil by participating in car sharing pools. Interesting. Poster images from the WWII era and contemporary art created in the same fashion grace the pages of this Bill Maher mini rant journal.

Lots of big pictures and not too many pages in this book so those who shudder at the sight of lengthy prose should not be dissauded. Each chapter-ette is a concise 1-3 page Maher rant on some aspect of the post 9/11 American state.

For anyone who is familiar with Maher's act, the verbal fare is fairly predictable. He lashes out against the War on Drugs. He expresses disappointment that political correctness sensitivity is still pervasive as he figured it would have receded in wake of a terrorist attack. Profiling Arab terrorists is a necessary action, he says. One of my favorite parts of the book is where Maher takes aim at the fraudulent pretense of patriotism - whether it be attaching a mini US flag made in China to your automobile or consumers continuing to wallow in extravagant self indulgence. That doing any more or doing any less is wrong because, then the terrorists win. He wanes nostalgic about the wartime days of the 40s and 50s where prominent athletes and film stars volunteered to fight but now the sole exception is former Arizona Cardinal Pat Tillman who heroically enlisited in the Army Rangers. Blasts are taken at Bush and political leaders of both parties - and the heavy handed nature of the administration's efforts to quell dissent are decried.

Politically Incorrect was one of the few TV shows I enjoyed, but Maher has an ego the size of Texas and can be quite full of himself. I suppose many successful folks in the Hollywood business share this trait, as it no doubt is a big factor in how they climb to the top of their art. I appreciate the benevolent bent in Maher's oped discourse, but there seems to be a reality shield that separates him from true insight. For one, the theme of the book - it is a much different time than the days of WWII and the Korean War. Employment hubs arn't centrally located and carpooling, even though it remains a liberal environmentalist cause, is not as viable as in the past. White collar clerical workers may still commute to the city but there's a lot of knowledge workers that drive cross town to work to office centers in suburbia, far removed from a bustling downtown. Lower income workers travel good distances to service jobs in more affluent neighborhoods. Cities are more spread out. Not that I was expecting a treatise on the benefits of car pooling, just an acknowledgement that the civic and geographic realm differs greatly from the good 'ol days of the greatest generation. On many of his takes, I'm in agreement but I just think it's a mistake to transpose the WWII era onto current times.

When you Ride Alone you Ride with Bin Laden is definitely worth a perusal but I would save the money and borrow a copy from a friend or check it out from your local library.


No comments yet

Add Comment

This item is closed, it's not possible to add new comments to it or to vote on it