the sanest days are mad

9/30/10

God knows this is your one-stop-shop for dime-store Grand Unifying Theories, but in the interests of staying positive about the future, I’ve had to devise ways to keep living in a country that I find so unfathomably stupid.

Oh, I’m sorry, does that make me sound like a douche? To paraphrase Walt Whitman, very well, then – I’m a douche. (I am large. I contain multitudes of smug disdain.) At the very least I’m honest, and I also admit my utter disgust for many of my fellow Americans has done nothing for my happiness.

So lately I’ve come to understand an obvious concept that can be applied to almost every problem we’ve got. Put simply: nobody can be told anything; everyone must learn everything through experience. It’s one tick shy of cliché, but if you take this rule to heart, it means every philosophical, political or otherwise “theoretical” argument you’ve ever made has fallen on deaf ears. Nobody is listening – ’twas ever thus, and twill ever be thus.

You tell that girl to stay away from that guy, and she listens to you, she “hears” you, and yet she will fall in love with him all the same, then call you weeping on the phone when he smashes her heart. You will tell your friend to make sure he has a spare tire, but he will not. You will tell your sister not to have that last vodka popper, but she will.

Take the American body politic as an example. Think of the roughly 14.2 million people who voted for Bush in 2004 and then wanted him gone 18 months later. Think now of the abject horror of his Presidency ending in 2009, and how two years later, the GOP has an excellent shot at reclaiming the House of Representatives.

It’s enough to make even an armchair progressive gnash his teeth in misery, but it’s pretty simple: Americans are simply incapable of learning from history. They don’t have the ability to see that Republicans make messes so large that Democrats can’t clean them up, which in turn makes Republicans get elected again. It is something that smart voters – ones actually looking at the bigger picture – will have to experience themselves.

It’s no wonder that “burnouts” get burnt out, or that our elders are capable of such heart-rending cynicism; they’re mostly exhausted watching the next wave of morons make the same mistakes over and over, and they feel powerless to stop any of it. They will argue that their snarling negativity is not actually cynicism at all – they’ll call it “realism”, or “pragmatism” – but there’s one thing they really are, and that’s “no fun at parties”.

With that in mind, I’m making this promise now: I will do everything in my power NOT to be one of these people. I will try to understand self-destructiveness for what it is. I will try to remember my own desire to make my own fucking dumb-ass mistakes on my own terms, even if it means being ready with kitty litter (for barf) and a credit card (for everything else).

CatWithGlasses.jpg

A friend of mine (no, not him, so don’t guess) has been ignoring his wife’s lamentations for years. She has repeatedly asked for certain reasonable expectations, and he has repeatedly come up short, and worse, not cared that much. He was repeatedly told that a woman’s heart can only take so much before they move on and have no feelings left, but still, he didn’t change. She then fell out of love with him, utterly and completely, and asked him to leave.

The news utterly floored him; he couldn’t believe it, claimed it came out of nowhere. He quickly reversed his ways, did what she wanted, but she was already gone, moved on, moved out. I will not say, nor even think, “told you so” – I can only be his friend, and continue to nod and pour drinks.

Some people need car wrecks to wear seat belts. Some people need to writhe in unbearable agony and run out of money before they will vote for universal health care. Some people need to marry someone awful before they treat themselves to the person they deserve.

And I know, as a parent, my words will carry the tiniest amount of bantamweight, a feather-ounce of syllables just wafting out of earshot as my kid looks at the expanse of a beautiful world waiting to be devoured. I can only hope my child suffers small scares that imbue the wisdom to choose passions wisely.

As Morrissey said (on an album of almost equal beauty to his work in The Smiths):

You’ll never believe me, so

Why don’t you find out for yourself?

Sick down to my heart, that’s just the way it goes

Some men here, they know the full extent of your distress

They kneel and pray and they say, “Long may it last!”

Why don’t you find out for yourself?

Then you’ll see the glass

Hidden in the grass…

Why Don’t You Find Out For Yourself”, from Vauxhall and I

0 thoughts on “the sanest days are mad

  1. sue

    Thank you for your thoughtful writing. Every once in awhile I like to feel as if there might be like-minded folks out there. Certainly cannot find them here in the wilderness where I live.

    Reply
  2. chaircrusher

    I think that something fundamental needs to change before Americans figure out how to keep good governence in office. Why would you ever put people in charge of government who say “Government is the problem?” If it wasn’t so to begin with, their cronyism and ideology-over-expertise hiring practices will make it so.
    The Republican appeal is soaked with cynical contempt for the intelligence of the electorate. They’ve spent four years doing everything they can to try and sabotage Obama and the Democratic Congress’s attempts to fix the unfixable problems the Republicans created. Then their core message is “see? they can’t get the job done.”
    They rail against the budget deficit, when Bush and the Republicans were the architects of the current problem. They only care about deficit spending and the national debt when they aren’t in charge of throwing money at defense contractors and their own pet pork projects.
    Like I said on twitter:
    ‘Saying “THE ECONOMY SUCKS, VOTE REPUBLICAN” is like saying “BOYFRIEND DISAPPOINTS YOU? HOOK UP WITH YOUR RAPIST!”‘

    Reply
  3. josie

    My friend posted this on Facebook just yesterday: “The Republicans Are Counting on You Having Amnesia This Election.”

    Reply
  4. kent

    @josie — unfortunately it seems like Americans do have short memories when it comes to politics. Without any real evidence to support this theory, I can offer this: Other people — the Arabs, the Armenians, the Cambodians, the people of Congo, Somalia — have had crimes so outrageously heinous perpetrated against them that they hold grudges for hundreds of years.
    The United States has led a charmed life by comparison. It takes something like Pearl Harbor or 9/11 to make a lasting impression. Merely ruining the economy and environment and our international reputation are too gradual and remote for most people to remember about the Republicans. All the Republicans had to do is wait around for the new shiny of Obama and the Democrats to wear off.
    And the Republicans have a ton of money and their own cable news network to spread their misinformation and lies. Progressives are fools to depend on things like ‘facts’ and ‘science’ as ways to prevail. Even when they tried Air America to try and counter the right wing noise machine, they failed. They misjudged the audience — liberals are reading books and newspapers, not listening to the radio. You can’t read the New York Times in the afternoon on a construction site, but you can listen to Rush.

    Reply
  5. craighill

    “It’s enough to make even an armchair progressive gnash his teeth in misery, but it’s pretty simple: Americans are simply incapable of learning from history. They don’t have the ability to see that Republicans make messes so large that Democrats can’t clean them up, which in turn makes Republicans get elected again. It is something that smart voters – ones actually looking at the bigger picture – will have to experience themselves.”
    what a crock of shit.
    go heels. :)

    Reply
  6. Piglet

    My slogan: Don’t TP America in November–you’ll be cleaning up the mess for years!
    My other slogan, from Cowboy country: One in ten will learn from instruction. Two in ten will learn from example. The rest of ’em just have to piss on the electric fence for themselves.

    Reply

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