Over-the-top patriotic demonstrations at sporting events reached a new low this weekend, when servicemen and women were on exhibit at Pebble Beach during the PGA tour stop there.
There was something vaguely obscene about watching an enlisted person earning a little more than the poverty level standing at attention while a bunch of rich kids played golf for a $6.5 million purse.
We're supposed to feel humbled by these young people who "protect our freedom" on the sunny shores of the Monterrey Bay, where some of the nation's wealthiest 1 percent enjoy undisturbed splendor in their heavily guarded and gated enclaves.
We're supposed to pay homage to the sacrifice and dedication of those service personnel while, at the same time, we watch people named named Brandt, Keegan and Tag smack a little white ball around for the entertainment of corporate swells ensconced in their hospitality pavilions swilling fine wine while whining about paying a few percentage points more on their income taxes.
We all know how these guys really feel.
Mitt Romney gave voice to their disdain of the 47% who don't pay taxes. That number includes, by the way, most of the same enlisted men and women they were "honoring" at Pebble Beach.
As long as he breathes, CBS seems determined to trot out the doddering Clint Eastwood as the face of the tournament, who eclipsed his performance as the Man With No Name with his shamefully embarrassing Obama chair-talking shtick during the Republican National Convention last summer.
Like Romney, Clint evidently has it in for the president and those working poor and disabled folks who don't make enough to pay income taxes, let alone afford the price of admission to cruise 17 Mile Drive through Pebble Beach.
I wonder how those enlisted men and women felt about being used as props by a giant TV network making a pile of advertising dollars, or if the sad irony ever occurred to any of them.
Maybe they should have asked for a slice of that CBS pie, but that's not how it works in Carmel, where such uniformed folk are perceived the same way the gardener or delivery man are regarded, hired help to be seen but not heard.
Those servicemen and women, you see, have an important role to play in the CBS show when the camera cuts away and we see them, naively unaware of being exploited, shaking hands with a series of millionaire golf pros who were instructed to recognize them, look grateful, and then move on to the next tee. Thus, the PGA, CBS and the viewer all bask in the reflected glow of their selflessness and heroism. Meantime, their commanding officers and entourages enjoy free admission to the shindig.
Ostentatious military displays have become de rigueur at televised sporting events. We used to sing the Star Spangled Banner and let it go at that.
Now, we must have fighter jet fly overs, American flags the size of the field, the singing of God Bless America at half time, and, of course, soldiers, sailors and marines in uniform to remind us that "freedom isn't free," never mind that all the jingoistic showboating renders real patriotism cheap and real courage meaningless.
But the offensive travesty at Pebble Beach gets first prize for its naked hypocrisy not to mention its showcasing of the symbolic economic wall between the have mores and have almost nothings.