Sunday, April 15, 2007

The Cereal Box That Screamed.

I have had an empty cereal box next to my iMac for a couple of days. I have been wanting to write about it because it caused me to pause. The cereal is America's Choice, Frosted Shredded Wheat, the generic brand sold by the Super Fresh grocery. I like shredded wheat, a hang over from childhood, and this brand is about a dollar less than the name brands and has 19 ozs. rather than the usual 12 to 16 ozs. of cereal. According the the face of the box, the cereal has "9 vitamins and Minerals," which seems sort of meager, but, ya get what ya pay for. On one side of the box are recipes for Almond Half Moon Cookies and Chocolate Nests. On the other side is the usual "Nutrition Facts" information.

What caused me to pause was the back of the box. On the back is a colorful presentation entitled "Our Democracy at Work." It reads like a Cliff Notes explanation of the US Government in a kind of Power Point configuration. At the top of the box panel is the Preamble to the Constitution. Following that very bracing statement, I mean that sincerely, is this statement made by this American corporation:

"The foundation on which our government firmly stands is made up of three parts---the executive, legislative and judicial branches. Each of these branches of government has unique powers and the power to check each other. The separation of these branches insures that no one area of government can become too powerful. This is called a system of checks and balances and it guarantees that our government always represents the people and never the government itself." (Emphasis added)

Wow! What follows that statement is a brief explanation of each branch of government. Some salient points that are made:

1. The Executive Branch makes sure that the laws Congress passes are carried out.
2. The President makes appointments to the cabinet and many other important positions in government. These appointments can be very influential to how the government runs. Therefore, the Senate must approve all of the President's appointments---this is the "check" the Congress has over the Executive branch.
3. Congress is responsible for making the laws...
4. If the Supreme Court decides that a law passed by Congress does not agree with the principles of the Constitution, it is said to be unconstitutional. The is the "check" the judicial branch has on the Congress and the President.

My read is that this cereal box is FLAMING the administration in the most prosaic environment possible. I have recently been lamenting that we the people either didn't receive civic lessons in school or we didn't listen to them. Understanding the separation of powers and the system of checks and balances is the most basic understanding. It fits on a cereal box! The government's clear system of checks and balances is so misunderstood and the current administration obfuscates in such a manner that we are losing touch with the originating ideas. So, here, on the back of a cereal box, of all places, are some basic, originating ideas.

I want the America's Choice company to do a series on civil liberties on the back of the cereal box. Civil liberties seem the most difficult to explain. They are so sophisticated and beautiful, so protective of our civil existence and so misunderstood as the essence of our freedom.

I imagine that the America's Choice ad agency team is like a secret democracy cell, hidden away on the most mundane account. The team appears in every way perfectly normal, even a little hip. However, in the tradition of the early American pamphleteers, they heroically and subversively write to re-inform and enlighten the American people about the workings of their government; they quietly lead, at the least, the shredded wheat lovers, to freedom. Pity the Coco Puffs fans.

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