When not a problem, pal is a problem
By Bob Dorn
I’m afraid we have to give up on arguing with fascists.
We’ve got grown men in expensive suits, some of them Republican presidential candidates, willing to say in public that Obama’s deal with Iran on nuclear arms is worse than Neville Chamberlain’s famous sell-out to Adolf Hitler in 1938.
Remember death panels?
They don’t mean this shit, and they don’t seem to care a fig if they seem insane. We’re not going to convince the NRA that we need to place limits on gun sales and use. They’d rather aim a gun at you than negotiate. Maybe we’ll get lucky and they’ll start aiming at each other, like Dick Cheney did when he shot his skeet podner a few years back.
Instead of attempting to defeat fascism with arguments, maybe we can change the atmosphere down here at ground level. On the theory that the better we are the better our leaders will become, let’s look at what you and I do, routinely, to establish our own stupidity.
1. At parties we stand in doorways to talk. To go to the bathroom or get another beer you first have to get past the pair in the doorway. Do we tend to settle in the passageway because that’s where the action is? Also, I’ve thought that the door let’s us feel like we can keep an eye on two rooms to see which offers more potential to hookup; probably one of the two in the doorway thinks the other is boring. Maybe in that location we can get a better sense of what is going on around us. None of this convinces me. I don’t know why people stand in doorways to talk.
2. Many of us still watch television. I’ll just keep this category to two examples of its silliness. For one thing, talk show hosts generally sit in taller chairs than their guests do, including Jimmy Kimmel during his March 12 interview with President Obama, and Jimmy Fallon on April 02 while he interviewed Michelle Obama. I’ll bet Bill O’Reilly didn’t stand for that shit when he was booked as a guest. And another thing, the big networks and cable stations raise the volume during commercial breaks. They want us to buy this or that brand of dick hardener but they make it painful?
3. “Not a problem.” A lot of people will say this at the end of a simple transaction, when you thank them for the quarter and three pennies change they’ve just given you. Saying thank you means there wasn’t a problem, doesn’t it?
4. Cars. Uh oh, everyone’s got something wrong with them once they’re in the car. I don’t. But you do. The car makes us act as if no one else in the world matters, or is our equal. Total separation of people, one from another, is buried in mainstream strategies, and is most noticeable in driving behavior. Here’s only some of the stupid things cars make us do.
First, the car to the right on a freeway will start to accelerate as we begin to ease past it on its left. Test this. I think half to 60% of us do this. Make it 70%. It might be that the driver on the right gets the feeling they’re going to slow. But I do believe it’s just a competitive reflex; people just don’t want their car passed.
Secondly, people who go to gyms to work out on the treadmill, bicycle, step machine, elliptical and other sophisticated means of raising their pulse rates will often search the parking lots for the space closest to the gym’s front door so that they don’t have to walk very far before they get to the machines.
Thirdly, notice how many times you’re trying to join the freeway from an on ramp and a car won’t let you in, causing you to brake to fall in behind it, then it swerves to get in front of you so that it can get off at the next exit ramp, causing you to brake again. Huh?
5. Sidewalk behavior is another rich domain. On sidewalks people want to walk side by side by side by side, abreast, in other words. If you’re walking with your partner and three are approaching from the opposite direction the three will not so much as close ranks, much less will one of them step behind the other two to let you and your partner pass. It’s worse when one of the three has a dog on a leash. The dog will strain against the leash to piss on a bush. You have to come to a dead stop, though the dogs are more likely than any of three to give way to you.
6. “Well…” This is another television thing, though it’s really a speech thing. Recognized experts invited on to help network news shows demonstrate they’re open to all points of view 7 times out of 10 will answer questions aimed at them by first saying, “Well…” It’s really just a timing grab; the brain is trying to avoid a misstep. “Well…” provides a split second in which to review which of your practiced responses will best fit this question. We’ve all done it, but most of us don’t get to tell the viewing audiences what we’re thinking. Instead, we have the luxury of saying, “That’s a stupid question,” or “I don’t know the answer to that.”
7. False bravery. This is mostly a white guy thing. When their pride is challenged or injured by another they’ll often use “buddy” or “pal” as an appendage to their retort. As in “Oh yeah, pal,” or “I don’t think so, buddy.” In a more measured way, Romney similarly appended his response to a Citizens United protestor by saying, “Corporations are people, my friend.” Definitely not part of more ethnic speech patterns.
8. You’re lying in bed and just before you fall asleep somebody driving a large bike with an open manifold exhaust system will gun it and set off a car alarm. You’re dedicating another 15 or 30 minutes to falling asleep after the car alarm goes off just so the crackhead on the bike can feel more powerful.
Maybe we can vote against this guy when he runs for president.