CUCKOO followed EAGLE to his eyrie. He rather wished he’d brought a helmet, and was equipped with terrain-following radar; or maybe EAGLE following radar.
Flying with EAGLE required concentration because EAGLE flew like an attack helicopter pilot (or perhaps it was the other way around) and chose routes which were not for the faint-hearted.
He particularly liked to zoom along narrow valleys, snake through clearings, skim tree-tops, pop-up at the last minute to avoid ridgelines, fly along under overhangs dripping stalactite-shaped shards of lethal ice (just waiting to drop), and within inches of cliff faces lavishly equipped with unexpected turns, and protrusions of sharp rock.
There is flying; and then there is flying, he liked to say.
Then, he would suddenly soar up into the mountains until the air got thin, because his main eyrie was very high and virtually inaccessible; and boasted a vista that was so spectacular, CUCKOO always got a lump in his throat ever time he saw it afresh.
They were soon comfortably perched in EAGLE’S private quarters. They were sheltered from the wind, but could still see the view. Sunlight glistened off a river far, far, below. Nearer at hand, there were mountain lakes well stocked with fish. There was a practical side to EAGLE’S character; he liked to have fresh food at hand. And he was an excellent host.
They continued their conversation about Europe. EAGLE found he could speak more frankly if he didn’t call the place CUCKOO-LAND while he was talking to CUCKOO.
“For years I’ve heard that Europe was old-fashioned, socialist, union dominated and a terrible place to do business,” said EAGLE, “and now my research is telling me they’re doing better than us. Well, that would be confusing enough, but in addition, I couldn’t help notice that every U.S. company worth its salt is over there, and my financial eagles tell me they are doing very well. Apparently, they can live quite happily with unions and regulations after all.
“Do you think U.S. Big Business is lying to the American public?”
CUCKOO laughed. Then he laughed some more. Then he started giggling so much it was all he could do to hold on his perch, let alone his brandy.
Then EAGLE joined in and their joint laughter echoed through the mountains.
“Big Business lies all the time,” COOKOO said, when calm was restored.
“Corporations lie about their products in advertising, they lie to the government about their taxes, they lie to regulators about everything, they lie to local communities about all the jobs they are going to create, they lie to their employees and shareholders, and they even lie to themselves because they kid themselves that they are not lying but merely advancing corporate interests when they really mean their own.”
“But humans don’t approve of lying,” said EAGLE. “I often hear parents tell their children that.”
“Very true,” said CUCKOO. “But when humans gather together in some kind of organized structure, they think it’s ok to lie; and they do it all the time. They lie defensively, and they lie because they want something. They think truth is for the birds; and contrition is only for Sundays, and you only have to go through the motions.”
EAGLE thought of his beloved 101st Airborne. Surely, ‘The Screaming Eagles’ would never lie. They were all about: DUTY, HONOR, COUNTRY. He didn’t ask the question. He didn’t want to hear the answer. He already knew the answer.
“Americans are either being brainwashed or entertained – distracted - from birth to death,” said CUCKOO, “so they don’t really have much time to think – except a little bit when they’re working. But corporations really don’t encourage thinking even when their people are working. That’s what corporate manuals are all about. This is a very, very, authoritarian culture. It doesn’t encourage questioning the American Way of Life. That has been mythologized. You can be free on your own time – providing you don’t do anything that is contrary to your employer’s wishes.”
“Like what?” said EAGLE.
“Try organizing a union in your own time,” said CUCKOO, “and you’ll learn something new about flying.”
“But what about the media?” said EAGLE.
“The media are owned by Big Business – and people like Rupert Murdoch,” said CUCKOO. “And his contribution to truthfulness in America has been Fox News and the Wall Street Journal – to name but a part of his empire.
“The other media corporations are little better. At the very time when accurate reporting about what is going on in other cultures is vital, U.S. media bosses have been closing down foreign bureaus left right and center. And, at home, they’ve been sacking journalists, virtually eliminating investigative reporting, and focusing solely on profit. And I seem to recall the media have a constitutional responsibility. If they don’t tell us, who will? We mightn’t think much of them, but they’re all we’ve got. And many American journalists, if they are allowed, are very good; but they’re afraid. And they are muzzled.”
“Jumping frogs!” said EAGLE. “When you put it that way, it’s kind of ugly.”
“It’s much more than ugly,” said CUCKOO. “It’s an existential threat to National Security. Currently, America’s rich and corporate elites are destroying this country for the sole purpose of making themselves richer. Bin Laden must be laughing from his watery grave.
“Add in a truly lousy K12 educational system, a great many mediocre third level colleges and universities – though the best of them are marvelous – large numbers of crackpot ideologies, prejudices and religions, and rampant economic insecurity; and you’ve got a recipe for exactly what you’ve got: a country in accelerating decline.”
“But what about CUCKOO-LAND,” cried EAGLE, forgetting his resolution to call the place Europe. “It can’t be that different. I mean it’s a bit better but – but you guys are capitalist too.”
“Capitalism is like ice-cream,” said CUCKOO. “It comes in all kinds of different flavors; and the differences, while seemingly subtle, are important. And the American flavor is melting fast. The ingredients in it are the cheapest possible: unhealthy – largely imported – and sometimes poisonous.”
The word ‘China’ hung over the conversation.
EAGLE refilled bother their snifters with brandy, and downed half of his in a gulp. “Between you and me, CUCKOO, I could live quite happily in France, or some such place in Europe, but the truth is I love this country – faults and all – and don’t intend to see it go down without a fight.”
“Oddly enough, I think most of us in CUCKOO-LAND feel nearly as warmly about these United States of America as you do,” said CUCKOO. “But you guys have been top of the pile for so long, I think you’ve forgotten how to listen and learn from your friends.
EAGLE nodded and shrugged his wings. “I never thought eagleomics would be so hard,” he said. “It’s so – so emotional. I thought it would be about numbers, but it isn’t. It’s about life; and struggle; and death; and vision.”
“You are up here, surrounded by some of the most beautiful country in the world,” said CUCKOO, “and pretty much everything you want is to hand; and free at that. Now imagine what it must be like to be an average American, down there, possibly out of a job, deeply in debt, maybe hungry, and facing the future. And his benefit are about to be cut by a coalition of Right Mugs, Left Mugs and Tea Mugs in Washington D.C. as a better solution to the U.S.’s budgetary problems than taxing the rich and corporate interests.”
A single tear rolled from EAGLE’s right eye and dropped on his breast. “That’s exactly what I was imagining,” he said in a choked voice. “Damn food to get emotional. My apologies, CUCKOO.”
And then he shook his head, thrust himself into the sky; and flew, and flew, and flew.
And CUCKOO sighed; and watched the sun set in a blaze of glory; and finished the brandy. It was damn good brandy.
“Vive Napoleon,” he said appreciatively, and slept.