Jay Meehan: Confessions of a curmudgeon
“If you must keep talking, please try to make it rhyme/
Because your mind is on vacation and your mouth is working overtime.” ~ Mose Allison
I’ve pretty much, over time, become an unsocial sort. It’s a mantra I repeat often when I’m lobbied by friends and acquaintances to attend gatherings of most any stripe. I just don’t recall the last time I had anything interesting to add to the group conversation.
For the most part, they don’t buy it. Their objections often include examples from back in my self-medicating years (not that they’ve totally lost momentum) when, no doubt, I cajoled and carried-on ad nauseam, insufferably so even.
Notwithstanding the inherent logic in their cross-examinations, I’m usually drawn to the Queen Gertrude line from Act 3 Scene 2 of “Hamlet,” wherein she observes: “The lady doth protest too much, methinks.” In other words, I think the concerned individual(s) actually agree with my assessment but, for whatever reason, wish to cover it with smoke.
Not to say I’ve withdrawn completely from the social contract. It’s just that I have come to find the art of “listening” much more captivating than “returning serve,” as it were. This is really nothing new. I’ve always been the solitary sort. Me and a book and a glass of whiskey, now there’s a conversation.
A sounding board, I am not. An acquaintance will formulate an opinion and present it with flourish (or garnish). Don’t get me wrong. I will listen intently and soak it in, adding it to the mulligan that stews continually in the cognitive centers.
My reaction, however, is usually nothing more than, in a manner as pleasant as I can muster in the moment, maintaining eye contact with a slight grin. I hardly ever smile.
Often they find this reaction to harbor most all the attributes of rudeness, and they’re probably right. When the stars align, I can be a rude dude. Not insulting, I hope, just not in compliance with the normal attributes of polite behavior.
The intervening variables that actually nudged my ornery side into taking up residence at the keyboard while giving my stream-of-consciousness free reign are no doubt the usual suspects.
Take, for instance, awaking each morning to yet another assault on the rule of law. Such repeated offenses do erode the communal attraction, I suppose, while at the same time, calling for its revolutionary rejuvenation. In other words, we all should be returning serve with more fervor than appears prevalent at this time.
First of all, allow me to accept full responsibility for such a curmudgeonly outlook. Of course, anger with the current state of our democracy in Trump’s dystopia plays a prominent role but the boring discourse it has provoked hasn’t helped much either. I’ve heard it all before.
It’s all reminiscent of the Dylan line from “Brownsville Girl,” the song co-written by Sam Shepherd off the LP “Knocked Out Loaded”: “If there’s an original thought out there, I could use it right now!”
I doubt that anything less than the words Mario Savio spoke from the steps of Sproul Hall at Berkeley back in ’64 during the Free Speech Movement could entice me to engage:
“There’s a time when the operation of the machine becomes so odious, makes you so sick at heart, that you can’t take part! You can’t even passively take part! And you’ve got to put your bodies upon the gears and upon the wheels…upon the levers, upon all the apparatus, and you’ve got to make it stop! And you’ve got to indicate to the people who run it, to the people who own it, that unless you’re free, the machine will be prevented from working at all!”
If the Russians could so easily manipulate Facebook and the NRA to aid in their quest to set up a puppet regime in America, impeding the apparatus in order to stop the machine from functioning during the midterms will more than likely require a solution that both embraces and excites the “left.”
The challenge is to convince us unsocial sorts to get off our duffs and once again return to the fray. Is there a plan in place to send this bunch packing? Anyone out there got an original thought? Please try to make it rhyme.
See you at the polls!
Jay Meehan is a culture junkie and has been an observer, participant, and chronicler of the Park City and Wasatch County social and political scenes for more than 40 years.
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