I read the other day that seven counties in Eastern Oregon have voted to secede from the state and join Idaho. The majority of voters in these counties feel they have more in common with blue Boise than red Portland. The leaders behind this “Greater Idaho” movement hope to get 22 counties out of a total of 36 to vote on the issue and, presumably, leave Oregon. They refer to it as “moving the border,” since they aren’t really going anywhere, which reminds me of the argument about illegal immigration from Mexico into the United States. Some have pointed out that the immigrants didn’t move at all. The border did.
I’ve read other bizarre things lately, including the Chicago mayor declaring that she will grant interviews only to black and Hispanic reporters, Gay Pride parade organizers excluding the policemen’s union from the event, and the Pentagon admitting that UFOs have been shadowing Navy and Air Force pilots and hovering over our military bases for years. So now not only do we face a sort of reconstituted racism and exclusion–things we were supposed to be combatting–but we find out that the most outlandish thing you can think of is real, even if not in the form of little green men. Or, who knows, maybe they are. It’s the revenge of Orson Welles.
The piece de resistance this week was an advertisement on YouTube in which a pudgy, drug-addicted teen gets into his mother’s face when she confronts him about his habit. They yell, argue, and finally hug in tears. The drug in question was not heroin, cocaine, or even marijuana. It was nicotine. I thought immediately of two things: (1) Reefer Madness (1936), except this time the madness comes from nicotine, and (2) the joke about the guy who, when asked his age, replied, “I’m old enough to remember when the air was clean and sex was dirty.”
The upshot of all this–the takeaway, as they say in business conferences–is that the world has been turned on its head so that up is down, in is out, black is white, etc. This is nothing new, of course. Such turnings have been part of human history since the beginning and recorded throughout scripture. For instance, the eighth-century (BC) prophet Isaiah warned: “Woe to those who call evil good and good evil, who put darkness for light and light for darkness, who put bitter for sweet and sweet for bitter!” (Isa 5:20).
When I say the world has been turned on its head, I mean for me and people like me. Not people my age, exactly, since there are plenty of people in my age group with whom I do not agree. But I actually remember not just the joke about clean air but when cars lacked seat belts. The thinking was that, in case of an accident, you’d be thrown from the car. But in my experience the only people who were thrown from cars appeared in World War Two movies or owed money to a guy named Carmine.
Another takeaway is that I need to stop reading things on social media and watching YouTube videos (see Tweeting the Night Away). In addition to my staple of foreign language films and news reports, I have added nutrition videos. These generally consist of a dude in his 30s-40s in a tight-fitting t-shirt with ham-sized biceps and the latest info on the benefits or risks of certain foods, drinks, fasts, diets, vitamin supplements, and testosterone boosters. It’s not that I need a booster. It’s just that I’m supposed to be concerned, again at my age, which is why I bought pomegranate juice the other day. I have no idea what that will do beyond stain my teeth and thus prevent me from winning friends and influencing people with an isotopic smile, but I’m drinking it, anyway.
Don’t get me wrong. I am not careless when it comes to my health. On the contrary. I am so attentive I’ve stopped poisoning myself with expired food and jump rope ten minutes a day. I don’t like to brag, but that’s ten full minutes (see Ten Minutes a Day). It’s just that I find all of this overwhelming–the world turned upside down, the contradictory info from nutritionist-bodybuilders, and the public service announcements intended not just to alarm but to instill fear.
It’s not just me. I see it in the faces of people around me; the upper part of their faces, that is. Most of them still wear face masks even after being vaccinated, which is like walking around with a condom on just in case. “What with everybody rushing around, you can’t be too safe, you know,” a woman told me.
It’s time to slow down, people.
Image credits: feature by Matt ODell; alien by Joshua Coleman; Portuguese “slow down” by Hugo Teles. Want more? Go to Robert Brancatelli. The Brancatelli Blog is a member of The Free Media Alliance, which promotes “alternatives to software, culture, and hardware monopolies.“