The Dukes of Hazzard, a TV comedy spoof inspired by a 1975 film titled Moonrunners, ran from the late ‘70s to about 1985. One of the main characters, Jesse Duke (Uncle Jesse—played by the late Denver Pyle) introduced the phrase, “about a half a bubble off plumb.” He used it to describe people he considered just a tad shy of being in touch with reality.
By now, unless you’ve been comatose since Friday a week ago, you’ve heard about the shooting massacre that took place in Arizona a week ago yesterday. If not, Google it; I’m not going to rehash the details here. Nor am I going to engage in the blame frenzy between the political Left and Right or between the gun rights and gun control lobbies. Doing so makes no sense.
As with all matters politic over the past two years, Sarah Palin, considered by many as politically divisive and incendiary, ended up at the top of the usual suspects list. But, love her or hate her, she had nothing to do with this bloodletting frenzy. And, what’s more, rational people everywhere agree with me.
The point is that whatever people say or write doesn’t necessarily have anything to do with what people hear or read. Writers/speakers IMPLY; readers/listeners INFER. Implications may or may not be real, let alone be intentional, and inferences may or may not be correct.
However, it’s ALL irrelevant because people with predispositions to do so, will hear whatever they WANT to hear. It’s been going on ever since our cave-dwelling ancestors began communicating with grunts. And, in no other endeavor on the face of Mother Earth is this truer than it is in POLITICS.
Jared Loughner, a seriously disturbed, early twenty-something narcissistic social loner DID IT. All! By! Himself! After several years of marinating in the ooze of untreated mental illness, he finally surrendered to the mental demons that had dominated his consciousness for several years.
This doesn’t mitigate what he did, mind you; it simply explains it. And, while his behavior falls well short of insanity—a legal term, not a medical one—it’s a comfortable fit for a degree of mental derangement befitting a sentence of life with no chance of parole. But, we shall see.
The political rancor and tone is no worse today than it was seventy or eighty years ago. In fact, actual fistfights used to break out in the halls of Congress back then. If today’s politicians attacked each other in the personal ways that they used to, the lawyers would be in a perpetual feeding frenzy.
What has changed, though, is the speed with which people hear about things. Decades ago, it took weeks, sometimes months, for what people said to get around the world. Today it takes a couple of nano-seconds.
Think about it. A politician says something, or writes it, and in the time it takes to click a mouse button, multiple millions of people read about it, many of which are already predisposed to react, not to what the words were intended to mean, but rather to whatever they WANTED them to mean.
And, accordingly, in a few more nano-seconds, the blogosphere, which multiple millions read hourly, some of whom are outright wackos, is projectile vomiting hate and discontent.
And, making matters even worse, the cable news outlets stir the pot for all it’s worth because they have to fill a 24-hour news cycle in order to survive.
That we COULD be more civil in the WAY we say things is beside the point. We can’t eliminate speed-of-light inferential misinterpretations; and, there’s no possible way to overcome untreated human madness. Other Arizona-like bloodbaths will occur no matter how nice we try to be toward each other.
As for the way people have treated Sarah Palin relative to all of this, I think it’s blatantly unfair. But, on the other hand, Sarah—and she’s not the only one, RIGHT or LEFT—has mastered the art of overheated rhetoric. It appeals to her small but rabidly zealous base and it sells her books.
It also makes her an advertising dollar windfall relative to drawing TV/radio audiences, not to mention that she’s become a Godsend to 24-hour cable news outlets desperately trying to satisfy their voracious appetites for sound bites and other assorted “gotchas.”
But, no matter the celebrity of those involved, the public feeds the frenzy by doing precisely what cable news outlets need people to do: let emotion hijack reason.
In the Arizona case, we permitted idiots to redefine the essence of what took place on January 8, 2011. Somehow, it went from a lone maniac gone berserk with lunacy causing all of it, to misguided politically heated rhetoric and a lack of gun control causing it.
And, seemingly, the utter personal devastation suffered by the families of innocent victims became secondary as a pontificating parade of self-aggrandized cable-channel intrepid windbags rambled on about nothing.
The LEFT condemned the RIGHT and the RIGHT defended itself by employing a “They did it, too” mindset. And, as has been the case over the last several decades, the nation will emerge from this tragedy with nothing of essence gained because we’re too busy choosing up sides. And THIS, folks, is why we’re greeted each day with so much meaningless bullshit monopolizing our news.
Make of it all whatever you wish. The fact is that there is far too much baseless information available to way too many people lacking the intellectual wherewithal to decipher fact from fiction. But, freedom’s price is steep and this is part of that price.
How many people “about a half a bubble off plumb” does it take before the entire country appears to be a “FULL bubble off plumb?” We had better SOON wake up.
So, I’ll end this week with those immortal words of the late John Wayne; “Life’s tough… it’s even tougher if you’re stupid! That is all.”
Joe Walther is a freelance writer and publisher of The True Facts. You may comment on his column by clicking here.