Fight or Flight

When I took the perilous assignment to pen a column for Noble / Gas Qtrly, I was under the misguided impression that my neo-professional abilities and sensible but sarcastic voice were serviceable assets to the cause of fulfilling the objective at hand: the discussion of politics. Then I made the irreversible error of sizing up the “competition,” Joseph Spece’s Proud Flesh column. By the end of the inaugural piece, “Near Departures,” I was awash head to toe in tremendous gouts of flop-sweat, curled on the floor in an old man’s garish interpretation of the fetal position, wondering how on earth I could begin to begin to conjure anything similarly masterful and evocative. Monsieur Spece’s protagonist dead mole charges to life bigger than Citizen Kane’s eponymous publisher, a giant among rodents, eclipsing Mickey Mouse, a long way from the heydays of Steamboat Willie, now a burnt-out charlatan, his bulbous nose flecked with Colombian Marching Powder.


While it’s customary for my panic attacks to congeal as angry jeremiads condemning the imaginary profligate excesses of notable cartoon characters, this one was different. I don’t normally harbor an opinion of Mickey Mouse one way or the other. What happened to me? Of course. That Old Devil politics had wrapped its tendrils around my brain and warped my thinking. Literary eloquence and a hefty lexicon are inferior weapons to wield against the benighted fiasco that is American politics. An inseparable symbiosis between postmodern political discourse and the decline of intellectual pursuits, aided by society attuning itself to vapid reality-entertainment boondoggles and the barren wastelands of Facebook, has degraded politics into a drunken bar brawl of sloganizing and slander which epitomize the inanity of our mendacious process.


We slice up candidates into montages of unflattering snapshots in sinister commercials with sanguinary backdrops set to needle drops from “The Imperial March.” The Illinois gubernatorial race, shot through the prism of TV ads, boiled down to a choice between Governor Pat Quinn, a mobbed-up goon tied at the hip to ex-Governor and extant convict Rod Blagojevich, and Bruce Rauner, a wine-club billionaire who quaffs baby blood from golden chalices. The issues facing Illinois—poverty, crumbling infrastructure, and minimum wage—were given the shortest of shrifts. Aside from an anti-Rauner spot featuring a grainy 1930s newsreel-style clip of the challenger declaring his opposition to minimum-wage increases, TV ads had nothing substantial to offer. The debates only settled the issue of least-comely stage demeanor, the Golden Turkey going to Gov. Quinn, who couldn’t have looked more out of his element if he’d been Chicago Bears quarterback Jay Cutler signing autographs at a Green Bay Packers convention—or a Bears convention, for that matter. Which is, of course, entirely untrue. But in 2014, unflattering bullshit talks, substance walks, and admittedly I wouldn’t have it any other way. The truth has never been a benevolent, loving mistress, so to hell with her.


Enough free-floating hostility. I need to get to the nearest decompression chamber and sort some things out before penning the next dreadful entry in this logbook of political terror. I feel so arid, so abused, like a pocked and cratered moon desperately seeking a breathable atmosphere. I’ll sign off with a series of dissociative musings and preternatural asides. Take none of it seriously.


Rejected Headlines—

Lobbyist Couple’s Wedding Cake Crowned with Capitol Dome Covered in Dollar Signs. The Onion passed on the story, believability rated as “way too fucking high” for publication.


Storybook Germ—

George Washington explains to Senator Ted Cruz the irony of reading from Green Eggs and Ham while pseudo-filibustering the implementation of the Affordable Care Act. The tale ends with Washington sinking his mythic crockery in Sen. Cruz’s neck. It’s only logical that Washington is a vampire, else he and Cruz couldn’t converse. Attention to detail, my cross for life.


In Other News—

Pope Francis issues an edict approving three new Eucharist flavors, Christ Cherry, Savior Strawberry, and his personal favorite, Vatican Surprise.


Midterm Fallout—

Obama announces the appointment of Charles Foster Deadmole as Chair of the Democratic National Committee. Deposed DNC Chair, Debbie Wasserman Schultz, said, “The move didn’t surprise me. After the butt-kicking [Democrats] took in the 2014 Midterms, I knew changes were in order, and from what I’ve heard, Mr. Deadmole has a lot of good ideas for 2016. Don’t let his appearance fool you. Yes, he’s literally a dead mole, but the DNC is an equal opportunity employer, and I think our tent is big enough to include deceased tunneling creatures.” Mr. Deadmole, who’s been dead since an unfortunate encounter with a coyote, said, “As a dead mole, I relish the challenge of breathing life back into the Democratic Party as well as myself. Although I cannot at this moment say with any degree of certainty which heroic intervention faces the greatest number of obstacles, I do weigh the odds of pulling off either as dead even.”


R. A. Roth