My father was in the local hospital for almost two and a half weeks before he eventually passed away. Dad was fairly lucid for the first 3-4 days, but was his mind was shutting down along with his body.
On the first Sunday he was in the hospital, I arrived at his room late in the day only to find him screaming at a nurse trying gamely to make Dad comfortable in his bed.
“I need a blanket on my legs,” Dad bellowed. The blanket was already on his legs. But the poor nurse was doing his best to pacify his 88 year old taskmaster, so he just straightened the blanket with the hope of satisfying Dad.
“I need to raise my legs,” was the next order. “Son,” Dad said as he pointed at the nurse. “Help this man raise my legs to put a pillow underneath them.”
Ever the dutiful son, I did as I was told, and propped up Dad’s legs under the pillow.
“Why are my legs raised?” Dad yelped almost simultaneously to his little legs hitting the pillow. “My legs need to lay flat on the bed. Who raised them?” I felt like my father had turned into Louis Gossett, Jr.’s Marine drill sergeant in An Officer and a Gentleman and I was Richard Gere in Basic Training.
We played this fun game of Dementia Simon Says for 15 minutes or so when Dad stopped suddenly and gazed up at the television on the wall. I recognized the unmistakable ticking of the 60 Minutes intro without even looking up, but when I did glance at the screen, I saw a familiar ruddy-faced man dressed in a navy suit with a shiny red tie tied just a little too long speaking to a huge throng of supporters.
“Son….who is that??” Dad stammered while momentarily forgetting about his leg raises. He looked like he was straining his eyes for better focus.
“That’s Donald Trump, Dad. You know who that is,” I explained. “He’s running for President now.”
Dad’s blue eyes looked over at me like a confused child separated from his family in a department store. So I continued.
“He’s probably going to win the Republican nomination, and he’s going to be tough to beat in a national election. He’s dominating the news. I really think people are following his message.”
My father studied the screen with intense curiosity, as if he were a prehistoric caveman seeing fire for the first time. Finally, after about a minute or so of listening silently to the television, the wisest man I have ever known spoke.
“Son. Have I died and gone to hell?”
I’m tired of it all.
No. Let me put it another way.
I’m fucking sick and tired of it all.
I had grand plans of putting into words the lunacy of this time in our history. I really did. It was going to be grand and dazzle every one of you with crisp prose filled with biting and incisive commentary. Since January 6th, I’ve been clipping articles and essays ready to go. But when I wanted to finally begin, I couldn’t do it.
I’m too tired.
We are being pulled apart by our fringes. The center is not holding, as Yeats warned us, and now the politics of hate, division and straight-up lunacy are becoming the norm. Both sides of the aisle are guilty and I spare no one. I have always prided myself on my vocabulary but I don’t have a better way to describe it all than this – It’s all just so fucked-up.
In his book, Idiot America, Charles P. Pierce put forth the three Great Premises of what he terms the new “Idiot America”:
- Any theory is valid if it sells books, soaks up ratings, or otherwise moves units.
- “Fact” is that which enough people believe. Truth is determined by how fervently they believe it.
- Anything can be true if someone says it loud enough.
That shoe fits our country like one of Kamala Harris’s Chuck Taylors, so we might as well wear it. We are all idiots. We are one nation under goddamn cell phones. If you can make a lot of people virtually “like” your views, then you’re golden. You’re practically a Kardashian then. Somehow, someway we have to go back to talking about ideas, not insults. Our commonalities used to be far greater than our differences. Our love of the whole— this beloved country— far surpassed our devotion to a political party or even worse, a person. Now I’m not so sure anyone gives a damn about our sameness. An incredible majority of our country has no desire to change its ways. We just want a faster internet service and our fellow man to leave us the hell alone so we can tap out pithy messages.
“If people see the Capitol going on,” Abraham Lincoln said to the Union Chaplain when asked about the expense of the dome during a civil war, “It is a sign we intend the Union shall go on.” For the first time in our nation’s history, on January 6, 2021, that little “shall go on” business seemed a bit dicey. I have good friends who went to DC for the rally. I know in my heart they didn’t go there with the intent to overthrow our government. But I also have dear friends who warned me for months of the impending federal marshal law or that the presidential election was “stolen,” even though they have no proof to that point. I guess the presidential election is a little like my own birth— I don’t have any proof I was there other than this document signed by a doctor which was purports to show evidence of the live birth of John Christopher Cox on June 11, 1974. But that doctor isn’t alive anymore so I should challenge the veracity of the entire document. I don’t remember being born so there’s a chance it didn’t happen. To believe otherwise is just buying into the government’s propaganda. Is that absurd? Absofrickinglutely it is. But the last 4 years has yielded a nation distrustful of itself. Our country should be the F.U.S.A., the Formerly United States of America.
God bless all of you. And may God bless this nation.