This weekend I’m taking my family to Texas for Earth Day, which is sort of like flying to Iran to celebrate Easter. Nonetheless, I’m looking forward to the trip because I’ve decided to simply embrace the absurdity of the times rather than continue to be mystified and puzzled by it. Instead of making wisecracks like “what’s next…. (insert something bizarre)?” I’m going to say, “I wonder when (something bizarre) will happen?” It’s a subtle shift in mindset; a new experiment so I can better withstand these crazy times.
My advice to you is bet on the weird, bet on the implausible. Hundred- and thousand-year events are going to be the style this decade. It’s like an avian swarm straight out of Hitchcock, but all the kamikaze birds are black swans.
I don’t know the best way to respond to this craziness. I suppose you could ignore it, or just decide to live a fear-based existence, or perhaps say “screw it all” and raise the black flag. But — and I mean this seriously — why not try embracing absurdity for a while? Surely it can’t be the craziest response to these strange days, can it? I’m not going to do a Rip Taylor impersonation after a disaster occurs, mind you, but when U.S. “leaders” respond to crises in clown-like fashion, why not join the party and throw some confetti or, like TV’s volatile Rip, tear off your toupee and pitch a fit? I sense it would be healthier than constant outrage.
For example, take abortion. In a normal world, you’d think such a depressing and divisive issue would be tabled while the country is recovering from a near-depression and engaged in three(!) overseas conflicts. After all, conservatives successfully campaigned on fiscal issues last November and pretty much ignored “social issues” like women’s health and same-sex marriage.
Yet, last week the U.S. government was almost shut down because conservatives wanted to defund Planned Parenthood. Suddenly that became a paramount issue. A U.S. Senator even went on the Senate floor to complain that abortion is “well over 90% of what Planned Parenthood does.” When it was pointed out that this statistic was wildly false and that no federal money goes to fund abortion, the Senator’s office responded by saying the claim “was not intended to be a factual statement.”
It was an absurd moment, but it tellingly captured the circumstances in which we find ourselves:
Republican Study Committee Chairman Jim Jordan (R-Ohio) issued a press release… accusing the White House of shutting down the government to “keep Planned Parenthood running,” and Rep. Mike Pence (R-Ind.), asked on MSNBC whether he’s willing to “hold up this entire budget over defunding Planned Parenthood,” replied, “Well, of course I am.”
I don’t remember funding for Planned Parenthood’s family counseling services being the pre-eminent campaign issue for conservatives last year, but suddenly it seemed like the mother of all fights.
And just when you thought Sarah Palin’s fading star made it safe to buy treasury bonds again, Minnesota Republican Congresswoman and Tea Party darling Michele Bachmann has decided to run for President. More power to her. Monday she called for “abolishing the entire tax code” as well as the Departments of Education, Commerce and Energy. She indicated she wanted to limit the powers of the judicial branch of government. And then she labeled Planned Parenthood “the LensCrafters of big abortion” and slammed same-sex marriage advocates for, as she put it, going against 5,000 years of human history.
The Fukushima nuclear disaster is now considered a level-seven nuclear accident, which puts it in the ballpark of Chernobyl. The radiation releases are as yet only a fraction of Chernobyl’s but still deeply disturbing. And a leader of the Tea Party movement– the ascendant political force of our time– is running for national office on the idea that we should abolish the Department of Energy… and handcuff the judiciary because it might allow gays to marry.
Seriously, I’m no longer going to worry about how to stop the insanity. Embrace the absurdity is my new motto.