OK, in the past 24 hours of social media, I have seen a pic of a racist note asking a day care center to fire an worker because she was "too dark" to be with the kids, footage of ICE harassing a family needlessly, and an assortment of other madcap twirls and fits that I kept having to stop and ask, "Wait, is this real? Are you sure this is real?"
One of the twirls was a story claiming that the head of Amazon dropped a baseball bat studded with nails between the mayors of two cities and asked them how bad they wanted the second headquarters to be built in their towns. I had to scroll down to the end, because that is actually plausible right now.
No, really. Think about what's been on the news the last year or so. Every week. Now: in light of that: is having a CEO of one of the world's most powerful companies silently challenge two city politicians to deathmatch one another for an exclusive deal worth untold millions really so impossible?
No. It's not.
Not today, it isn't.
That one, I am pretty confident, was a joke. But only because it ended with the two men diving for the bat while the CEO looked on and laughed. And while I can see the bat being dropped by some git who thinks he's being clever, this culture isn't quite to the point of men in tailored business suits killing each other like a scene from Escape From New York.
Not yet, anyway.
But the rest of the text, images and videos.... yeah, I really don't know for certain.
Have you ever watched a movie that was so bad, and got so distracted and aimless, that it actually seemed to be lampooning itself? A movie where, to all appearances, it had resorted to becoming a parody of itself?
Right. Me, too.
That's where we are right now. We are living in that movie. The United States has become, in effect, a parody of itself. Take all of US history, crumple it up, and hand it to a grade-schooler to make a caricature out of... and this is the result. All the high points, all at once and in cartoon-like over the top effect. Some of the cast is great, but man, nothing can save this kind of writing. And don't even talk to me about direction and editing.
Years ago, The Pitch ran a story on the The Racist With Pamphlets in Kansas City. He had to be careful, this guy, because he was alone... and had to make certain he didn't get caught. He was a scared man. A weak man who knew he was outnumbered, and that the days of his ideology were dwindling fast.
Earlier today, at my college - my embracing, intellectual, Jesuit-values, all-inclusive college - some dink posted racist pamphlets on the outer doors of the residence halls. It was probably no one who actually attends, if only because students know that there are cameras covering those areas and the priest who runs the joint has exactly zero sense of humor about such nonsense.
But still. some dink went out in the early a.m., went on private property that is known to be patrolled and monitored, and repeatedly posted racist literature.
Maybe they felt that safe with their message. Or maybe their hatred empowered them. Or maybe that was just the statement that said dink wanted to make with his or her life, and if they got caught they thought they'd be a martyr for the cause.
Wow. Just... wow.
I know that fascism is on its way out. Likewise sexism, racism, and so forth... some aspects of each more slowly than others. And each facet of hate, ignorance, or oppression, as it feels its death encroaching, lashes out. Blindly, almost. Like a venomous serpent with a broken back, doing whatever damage it can before it's gone. The Nazis did that, executing as many people as fast as they could, even while the Allies were knocking on their doors. Robespierre pulled a similar trick. Probably the Romans did, too. It isn't a smart move, but these aren't smart people.
So I look at humanity a thousand years ago, then five hundred years, then fifty years, then today, and... yeah, okay. Slow and uneven progress is still progress. I can dig it.
But I was thinking that maybe they'd get smarter, lash out a little less. Silly me. this isn't high comedy, after all. They'll make faces and drop their pants, tell some fart jokes. And then they'll release the Zyklon B. Drop the guillotine. Light the dry wood fast, before the witches get freed. Because that is what they do.
And sometimes, when everything is going everywhere in little pieces, or threatening to, and the heavy solutions for the heavy problems are still dangling right out of reach, all you can do is laugh. It's always a challenge to laugh when the joke is told at your expense, but after a while I usually manage.
Better than giving a blindly destructive, dying breed the dignity of tears. Any day.