From the Nut House (And Into the Nut House) the Bar Jester Returns!By Jason Peters for FRONT PORCH REPUBLIC
Ingham County, MI
During my “time away” at the sanitarium, whither I had been driven by the pressure exerted on me by the FPR mafia to produce an essay a week for eight straight years, I was deeply touched by all the queries concerning my well-being–so deeply touched, in fact, that I vowed, once I was out, to provide a full explanation for my absence as soon as I could. I would come clean about my “little problem.”
But then, when I was let out of my rubber room on November 9 of last year, clothed and in my right mind like the ex-demoniac, the world on the outside seemed even crazier than the world on the inside, and let me tell you it was pretty crazy on the inside: my closest companions were a man from Ohio, who walked around asking people whether the color blue is round or Presbyterian, and a woman from Wisconsin, who kept lifting up the corners of all the rugs looking for her maidenhead, which, she said, she had “mislaid.”
So you can imagine my surprise at discovering that my fellow countrymen and women had rejected a mendacious globalizing technocrat in favor of a disgusting narcissistic demagogue. I thought for certain they’d go for yet another Certified Planner banking on the “I’m-smarter-than-you-and-know-better-than-you-what’s-best-for-you platform.
That had seemed to be the trend, at least for the last eight years or so. And much as an ironist might smile at the con-job perpetrated by a reality-show-version of Chaucer’s “hende Nicholas” (“and prively he caughte hire by the queynte,” as the Miller tells us), the election result did seem as improbable as a Bar-Jester piece on food that didn’t include a cocktail préparatoire.
I myself have never given a fying fluck about presidential elections, not since the rise of the imperial presidency, the elected king whom George Mason rightly thought we’d get–and then got–and who, he feared, would be worse than the hereditary king we’d just thrown off. All that hype over someone who can do almost no good whatsoever! I’ve watched grass grow on dark frosty mornings when grass doesn’t grow and found it more interesting.
So we got the Great Pumpkin in a comb-over instead of Lady Macbeth in a polyester pantsuit. Big deal.
Don’t get me wrong. I think the new executive is a peckerwood sonofabitch. I hear that when he pops the blue pill he grows taller. And the body condom has yet to be invented that could make me feel safe entering a voting booth to pull the lever for that yonder socket.
But does that mean that my ears wouldn’t bleed at all if they had to endure four years of that shrilling shill he was up against? Expressing a preference would be like saying, “Jesus! It’s true! The Whopper is way better than the Big Mac!”
Well, at any rate, I’m here again on this beloved Porch, and it’s a good thing I am. What a safe space it proves to be from the academy and all its safe spaces, which fairly doubled on November 9. I mean wow! Now that we’re all on the wrong side of history, everyone’s really worked up.
So far as I know there’s only one person out there who knows what to do in these “our” troubled times. Thank God we have someone to tell us to limit our time on Facejob and Twatter and get on with our own work, even though it seems that in the Trump era every moment of every day cries out for a right-thinking Twat or Facejob post from the self-righteous guardians of the social order.
(I hope I have the lingo right. I myself am not “on” Facejob or Twatter, so I’m not exactly sure about the nomenclature.)
And O the handwringing! I got in trouble the other day for suggesting that the problem isn’t with the dimwits who voted for The Winner. The problem, I said, is with the dumb-assed Democrats who didn’t have the good sense to nominate as their party’s candidate a morsel of dried chicken shit, because a morsel of dried chicken shit could have routed this peckerwood sonofabitch soundly. Hell! I’d have voted for the morsel, and I don’t give a shit.
But no! All the smart people in Grand Republic–the ones not smart enough to pay attention to anyone outside their own SmartCircles, where all the SmartPeople gather–had to nominate the person voted by her high school classmates as “Most Likely to Marry the World’s Biggest Loser or Lose to the World’s Most Frequent Marryer or Both.”
“That’s how smart you people are,” I said to a group of morose academics (but I repeat myself) huddled in the hall like a bunch of abandoned baby raccoons in a cold spring rain. “You put forward the most hawkish nominee your party has come up with in the last fifty years, someone who doesn’t want to be president so much as she wants to be the first female president, someone whose interest in public service doesn’t even register on a micrometer, and you’re shocked you lost, even if her opponent has never read Article II of the Constitution for the obvious reason that he can’t read?”
As you can probably guess, I’m a pretty popular guy these days in my circles, which include two loony bins plus blue-collar bars, and that brings me now to the element of surprise.
“So you can imagine my surprise,” I wrote above, “at discovering that my fellow countrymen and women had rejected a mendacious globalizing technocrat in favor of a disgusting narcissistic demagogue.”
I said it but I don’t really mean it. It’s true I lost a bet on the election (I thought that the Left’s odious piety would prevail against the Right’s odious piety), but I wasn’t really surprised, not like my fellow sojourners in the Nut House were–I mean the Nut House I was released into, not the one I came out of. I mean the loony bin of “Hire Education,” as the late great Gene Logsdon called it.
And the reason for this is that, unlike my fellow sojourners, who cannot stop yammering about diversity but who don’t actually know anyone unlike themselves, I actually rub elbows–and prefer rubbing elbows–with people who don’t inhabit the Nut House. And for the most part I do this in dive bars where diverse opinions can actually be heard without censorship. A dive bar, in case you didn’t know, isn’t like a faculty lounge, which, as it happens, is as much an echo chamber as the Fox news room. “All shuffle there,” said Yeats in “The Scholars”;
all cough in ink;
All wear the carpet with their shoes;
All think what other people think;
All know the man their neighbour knows.
No wonder the “smart” people were taken by surprise. Notwithstanding their presumption as the lawful custodians of political and cultural life, they weren’t and aren’t smart enough to seek out any real diversity of opinion. In Hire Ed “diversity” means people who look and dress differently and who come from different places but who think the same permitted thoughts, express the same sanctioned sentiments, and vote for the same predictable candidates. In other words, “diversity” means “uniformity.”
But what I hear in these places of real diversity, these dive bars, is anything but uniformity of opinion. I hear both right- and left-wing blather, to be sure, but I also hear a range of thought wholly lacking in Hire Ed, where red and blue are the only recognizable colors and where disaffection with the Right and the Left means you’re obviously a Libertarian, there being no other categories known in the visible universe. And there must be simplified political categories, since the ability to think without them requires a subtlety as unlikely as an erection at a meeting of the Women’s Studies faculty.
At the bar, however, I can actually hear a man complain that he’s being asked to choose between Coke and Pepsi, or Miller and Bud, when it’s clear that his tastes run toward craft beer. Another complains, rightly, that the charade being staged by the political elites will have exactly zero bearing on his life, unless the effects be malevolent. Then he’ll feel it for sure.
But what I mostly hear–and I would never hear this in either loony bin–is clear disaffection with the Party Elites, Right and Left alike, one group hell-bent on arming kindergarteners with hand guns and the other hell-bent on supplying them with condoms. The denizens of the bars want their kids to learn their letters and numbers. And they want them to learn their letters and numbers without “expert analysts” shitting through their mouths in an attempt to explain what the letters and numbers actually mean. (They disprove evolution; they prove that everything is socially constructed; blah-blah-blah.)
One night I opined to my merry companions that we should resuscitate the New Jersey plan, which called for two chief executives, and elect both the Chump and Shillary–with the proviso, however, that they be required to share a double bed and, as punishment for all the misery they put us through, commit adultery with each other every night—twice if possible (I did not recommend positions or methods). “That’s 365 x 4 x 2,” I said, at which point the guy next to me whipped out his phone and did the calculations–the first time one of those damned things has ever been put to good use–and showed me the screen:
“That’s 2,920 screws,” I announced. “By the end Chump and Shillary will be crawling on their hands and knees back to party headquarters, begging them please to reorganize.” I imagined them crooning in unison, “I’ve learned my lesson! Don’t send me back to that double bed! And for the love of God, stop screwing the American people!”
An added benefit would be that Melania and Bill would be off the hook for performing what must certainly be the most unpleasant of all connubial obligations ever known to copulating homo sapiens.
The bar approved.
Not surprisingly, my fellow sojourners in the Nut House did not. Ere mid-November was upon us they were too busy providing students with sticky notes so they could express their discomfort and post it on walls and be assured that they are not alone in their fear and loathing.
Meanwhile, the other students, the ones who exercised their liberty by voting for the wrong candidate (I mean the peckerwood sonofabitch), were walking around wondering when exactly they had been stripped of their official status as citizens in a free country and as members of an institution putatively given to the free and disinterested exchange of ideas. The cleverest among them marveled that “critical thinking skills” could be prized by faculty members so incapable of practicing them.
And then I attended a meeting at my township hall. The purpose of the meeting–from my point of view–was to convince the county road commission not to widen another road, which it would do at the cost of hundreds of trees–beautiful oaks, maples, and hickories and the canopy they provide–most of them well over a hundred years old.
The purpose of the meeting from the road commission’s point of view was to explain to us that the road would be widened, because people who don’t live on it think it should be widened and because the distant omni-benevolent federal dollars by which the road would be “improved” come with specific conditions, chief among them that the road be widened, otherwise no omni-benevolent money.
I left the meeting certain that we the people would lose this battle. This is how it always goes. Distant power wins. Distant interest wins. And no one wielding power or holding interest will ever have to live with the consequences or see the bare ruined roadway.
The moral of the story is this: elect whomever you will. Install in the White House a pompous discolored windbag who understands nothing about public service, or place there instead an ambitious dyspeptic schoolmarm who regards public service as a means to private fulfillment. In either case we lose our trees. In either case we lose our asses.
Meanwhile, in the first loony bin, where a man ponders the shape and religious affiliation of the color blue, and where a woman pulls back the drapes looking for her innocence, things appear sane by comparison.
But I’m not going back there again. I’m here to help save FPR. I’m here to rescue it from too much low interest on the part of readers and too much high seriousness on the part of contributors. And, like you, my eight (okay, seven) readers, I’m here to rescue a small parcel of Grand Republic, one township meeting at a time.
“When life itself seems lunatic,” said the knight errant of La Mancha, “who knows where madness lies? Perhaps to be too practical is madness. To surrender dreams–this may be madness. To seek treasure where there is only trash. Too much sanity may be madness–and maddest of all: to see life as it is, and not as it should be!”