Elect Tony Soprano for a better AmericaAs "The Sopranos" begins its final run of nine episodes Sun- day on HBO, I have to admit that I'm already feeling depressed. Besides being one of the great character studies that television ever has given us, it also provides a compelling lesson in human relations, street justice and the proper way to conduct a war (i.e., one snitch at a time).
Maybe Tony Soprano is on to something here. I mean, just look at the mess we're in. The country is sharply divided politically. The economy is laden with debt. An unpopular war rages in Iraq. We've lost the world's respect. We're left feeling hopeless, powerless. It's clear that we need more Vito and less veto.
Could a boorish, homicidal, philandering thug do any worse? I say no, he couldn't. And as "The Sopranos" embarks on its march into eternity, I suddenly imagined 10 ways the U.S. could be better were Tony in charge.
1. We'd eliminate much of the debilitating debt borne of a populace maxed out on credit cards. That's right: We get back to paying cold, hard cash, baby, for everything from new Jaguars to single-family homes.
2. None of that wussy e-mail. If you have a problem with someone, you don't hide behind a computer monitor and keyboard. You talk face-to-face, like real men. If there is an issue with a loved one, a friend or a neighbor, you get together, break bread and take a meeting on it. And if your foe doesn't agree to the terms you propose, it's considered OK to whack 'em as long as you don't do it all public and messy.
3. The courts and the cops are busy enough. Unless your issue is unbearably complicated, you avoid lawyers and law enforcement. Contracts? Don't need 'em. A handshake and eye contact is good enough. Anyone who breaks that bond is dealt with quickly and efficiently.
4. Overweight, balding white guys are held up as the new hunky ideal. People who work out too much or look too gussied-up are viewed with suspicion and generally dismissed as trying way too hard.
5. Moving-violation tickets can be made to instantly disappear with a single phone call to the proper associate of the right judge. No bail payment, no traffic school, no muss, no fuss.
6. Everyone is required by law to take on a nickname, typically some form of your full name. If you happen to be Joseph Parachini, you're likely to be known as Joey Parakeet. Or Joey Pack.
7. Instead of giving mere lip service to the idea of "family values," under President Soprano it would become the new fabric of our American existence. You buy your wife lots of expensive presents. You provide for your kids more than they need. You stay married at all costs. Sure, you cheat with floozies and hookers every couple of weeks, but that's just harmless recreation. Men got needs, ya understand? The women will just have to get used to it.
8. If you rat on someone, expect to be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law. People with integrity mind their own business. Friends don't let friends drive investigations. It's a loyalty thing.
9. Federal funding is passed to create drive-thru pasta stands nationwide. Don't laugh. What would you rather eat — a greasy burger and fries or linguini marinara with mushrooms? Your shirt might get a little splotched, but so what?
10. "The Stripper'" gets pushed through Congress as our new National Anthem. The best part: no words to forget!
Hey, it works for me. So let the campaign begin here: "He'll Kill for You: Tony Soprano in '08!"