Dalton Delan | The Unspin Room: Transmissions from the bottom of the rabbit hole
I’d been absorbed in the Sunday paper, and it wasn’t just the accretion of bad news that tugged my spirit downwards — a rabbit hole of woke culture, the Fox tinderbox, dominant delta and the fate of those to whom we owed a moral debt when it all went Kabul. No, it was the realization that much as I’d like to manifest admirable tolerance in an era of hillbilly elegies, I can’t.
Woolly forbearance itches me. Rather, my patience is fraying over the stubbornly unvaccinated, the masters of others’ childbearing, those trigger-happy with semi-automatics, the flag-waving fans of Jan. 6 clothed in hand-me-downs of the Confederacy.
Curmudgeonly as ever, I reached for the funny pages, trying to shake the lament of columnist Maureen Dowd: With all we have tragically misread and mishandled in the last decades, “What else don’t we know?” A pertinent question, Maureen.
Trying to cool off with the comics, I switched on Sirius, and got my answer from their 1970s channel: It was Stealer’s Wheel harmonizing, “Clowns to the left of me, jokers to the right, here I am stuck in the middle with you.” In tennis, the middle solves the riddle. In the gauntlet described, not so much.
The DJ rode the theme, segueing to Bob Dylan and his nasal plaint, “Idiot wind, blowing like a circle around my skull.” Circle the wagons, they’re gerrymandering one more district. There’s more than virus troubling the air we breathe. Back to the failures of leadership, one can understand mistrust of mask-wearing when Fauci & Co. spent critical time advising against them, and cray-cray Southern governors conflate losing face with an attack on Philadelphia freedom. And let’s probe the Manchurian candidacy of those who believed 45 was going to ride back into D.C. in a golden golf cart once all those absentee ballots were deep-sixed. Then 46 drank his predecessor’s Kool Aid and pulled out of Afghanistan on an arbitrary date, come hell or high water — with both of those making their appearance in a triumph of really bad juju.
Too much dwelling on these miscalculations, misogyny and misanthropy, and the parlous predicament of the world is apt to get one down. I turned off and turned away from the media in favor of visiting an aged bourbon atop a couple of rocks I keep around for just such occasions. Sipping into something more comfortable, my mind floated back to the years I’ve strutted upon the stage in my work in media. While there have been signs of intelligent life — at least when seen through a glass, darkly — my experience of the boss-class offered little solace.
Forcing myself to recall the rogues’ gallery of CEOs and boards I’ve dealt with, there weren’t many MENSA certificates, and unenlightened self-interest and ruthlessness were largely the order of the day. As much as I hate to cast shade, they ranged from criminals lacking conviction to egomaniacs and Wrong Way Corrigans as capable as that aviator of taking off from Brooklyn and making it all the way to Ireland before realizing it isn’t the intended destination of Long Beach, Calif. It reminds me of the globe spinning the wrong direction on ABC’s World News Tonight, before a teacher wrote in to correct them. Says it all.
What’s the good of such a splenetic whine, I ask myself. Maybe since we are at a critical juncture, and climate change, for one, is likely over the tipping point in a barrel. We are long past the incremental solutions of the Paris accords, even if implemented. Too little, too late. If every nation is for themselves first — understandably — but ignoring the interconnectedness of the world, and its huddled masses no longer inspire us, we can all stop pretending to some righteousness we haven’t earned. Ignorance isn’t bliss, and our realpolitik resembles Putin’s.
In my dreams, I’m ever searching. The destinations, like the ladders out of our ethical sinkholes, are endlessly out of reach. Is there a way to disrupt this dead-end road? Since you asked — ahem — I have these random suggestions. Turn out every incumbent representative and replace them with the best teacher in your school district. Pay teachers and nurses what you pay Congress and doctors. Stop driving anyplace under a mile and walk, bike, e-bike or carpool with a neighbor. Arrest yourself from the delusion that you know anything. Rescue a cat or dog from the shelter and pet or play with them every time the urge strikes you to order something you don’t really need on Amazon. Get off Facebook and phone a friend. Tip big. Get to know a recent immigrant in your neighborhood. They’re a lot like you underneath.
Scratch the surface of a media skeptic and you find optimism denied. Sunshine, lollipops and rainbows. You tell ’em, Lesley.