I am havink many bells, I even haff one that vhen you ring it, it causink countries to divide themselves bitterly along religiousky lines and gatherink up eye-pokink sticks, yes? If I can find it again, wherever it has gotten off to, should I send it to President Obama? If he rings it while asking “Who vants to invadink Syria with me, da?” will world peace break out as Republicans prepare to do anything and everything to stop his Socialist plot to try and save some Syrian lives no matter how many Syrians might actually not be helped or killed in the process? What should he do if more people show up for a free dinner at the White House than there are millionaires in Congress after the first ding-a-ling?
Dr. Ivan Petrovich Pavlov,
Dear Dr. Pavlov, and World War Wonder-abouts and Worry-warts,
Another probing question, from a letter with a drab stamp, arrived today, from a member of my loyal, captive audience located in an undisclosed Eastern European or Russian location, uncomplainingly walled up for decades behind those Iron Curtains – which are slowly turning a rather difficult shade of rust, even though you’ve been told your country of origin is an Autumn. We hear a lot about all these Arab Springs running around, but pastels and gardens and cheerful floral print burkas are sadly lacking in those parts of the world today, if you have eyes that functionally open. The kids I see are all wearing those heavy black boots and super-strappy firearms and extra-smudgy make-up and jewelry made out of live ammunition, whatever the Mecca-adison Avenue selling geniuses (Djinniuses?) tell us is hot, hot, hot! I’m not buying it; I haven’t got the legs for all that running, hiding and surviving.
But like most Americans, I have plenty of opinions about what everyone else ought to be doing while nobody does anything, and also find the time to fretfully accuse President Obama of doing way too little much of not the other thing, or the other, just to secure our falafel pipelines out of the Mideast, and ensure they keep flowing. Figuring out the hidden costs of human lives lost does nothing for a trending sandwich’s Q factor, and Americans especially have trouble converting the values of dead non-Americans through the tortured algebraic formulae pretended to be understood when calculating the equivalent value of those lives when compared to our combined inconvenience, political gamesmanship and spicy apathy.
Wherever Dr. Pavlov lost that bell, my guess is it’s been missing quite a while. For some time I was convinced that Dick Cheney had swallowed it — it certainly seemed like every time he ate something with green peppers in it faces started getting shot off or autonomous nations got invaded and stuff ‘n junk ‘n all, but I can’t believe any bell of any alloy would still be undissolved by the acid contained in his stomach by this point, and I worry that if that were in fact the case, a twisted shrapnel-like jagged metal poop might cause him some discomfort, which would be just awful and undeserved.
We are all so well trained to choose sides against each other, that the national case of tinnitus driving us all nuts is, I suspect, actually caused by that darn bell being strapped to the tail of an extremely happy Republican Labrador Retriever, joyfully wagging it at hypersonic speeds; a dog that is just overjoyed at how great his, and only his, yard is, and that nobody better put one paw on it, or else! What effect might such a bell have were it in the hands of a Democrat, especially one who felt the role of a non-volunteer government is to do something, anything, even if it’s just digging another latrine, or painting the pentagon pink at dawn and black at night, so people will stop noticing it so much and rubber-banding all those Chinese food menus to its five-sided doorknob. They can’t all deliver to that area, I say, and who wants cold Chinese food from Baltimore anyway, you’re hungry again and you lose your appetite before the guy even arrives with it in the first place, which he won’t.
So far no one outside of a few powdered-wig manufacturing concerns and some grape snobs have expressed interest in joining Obama on a Totally Excellent Syrian Adventure, which is good news for all those who detest war and its concomitant loss of life, unless you are actually part of an ongoing genocide, even a little one. Reverse Psychology might have been President Obama’s best chance at tricking the country’s legislative branch into pretending it can have complicated thoughts, but most agree that ship has not only sailed, but has been lying on the ocean floor near the Straits of Hormuz ever since they let George W. Bush try to drive it to Saddam Hussein’s Summer Spiderhome. Never show up uninvited just because you are out invading in the neighborhood, is my advice.
It makes such a difference to receive a proper invitation, and it allows both parties time to arrange for some baby-sitting in case the party gets a little bombastic at some point. It’s hard to concentrate on anything, like our shared humanity or whatever, with a bunch of wailing babies in the background. President Obama is certainly familiar with that experience from his time in Washington, and I doubt he expects to generate any consensus with a magical contrary-bell and a clever line of manipulative counter-narrative, not when he himself has long had some kind of spell hexing him that makes everyone suspicious of all the things he does, even if it’s just continuing Republican Policies already put in place by their heroes. As an articulate speaker, he knows to avoid using double negatives, and he is already, somehow, perceived to be more like a big, threatening, black negative void, of some kind, than a normal human being, at least to the aging tanning cronies that make up today’s Congress, men so full of the withering vitality that surges through the iron lung-like machine of the Modern Republican Party Leadership. These brave retirees are forever poised to act, like a hair-triggered finger ready to slide its brightly polished buffalo/Injun nickel into the automat slot for a steamy slice of Ma’s gooseberry pie with frozen custard sauce, a hot cup of something called “Joe,” and two cents change.
Reverse Psychology requires a simple, but functioning, decision-making process in order to work. It does not work on frogs, whose feeble brains command them to snap at anything black that enters their field of vision automatically, even if they can’t tell the difference between a fat juicy fly and the shadow of a piano falling towards them from a good height with a lot of momentum, or a President. People certainly assume no more nuance from the current Washington swamp, no matter how chirp-filled it is with frogsong. But it remains my advice to any considering unilateral action that when you are the only one to show up, it is not a party; it’s a very special sad Afterschool Special, an episode that calls attention to a serious problem, except nobody tunes in to watch it, because the fighting has begun and it’s time to hide. The President could always say he is willing to do something militarily to react to the heartbreakingly deteriorating situation, but that he would abide by the wishes of the electorate as expressed through their representatives from across the nation, asking them to assume their constitutional responsibility regarding the declaration of war the way the founding fathers said they should.
Sometimes giving up a little power can make a world of difference, a lesson the executive branch’s dog keeps eating the homework of, but one can hope. I can’t see both houses of Congress reconvening in order to prevent an international crisis from exploding into World War III, while a nation slaughters itself, not when this weekend’s end-of-summer picnic has been planned, your sister and her husband are en route, and the big bag of charcoal briquettes has been dragged home from the grocery store. And more importantly and to the point, Go “< insert local sports franchise here >s!”, you’re the best! So that’s all from me, and the American perspective, on the Syrian Situation. Anyone want to sign this here card? It just says how sorry we are to hear about, and watch, what has happened to them. I’m addressing it to: “Occupant.”
Mrs. Vera Newman is a San Francisco absurdist character, humorist, artist, writer, community organizer, clothes horse and co-founder, with Mister Tina, of The Verasphere. She has been answering the unasked questions she receives from the lonely, empty rooms of America’s heart-shaped circulatory pump room ever since it began beating. Nestled in the politically bent bowels of the Nation since she was a young girl babysitting the very same newborn Nation, her ability to self-reflect about anyone else’s embarrassing shortcomings, inept fumblings or lousy recipes has enabled her invisible rise as a modern-day Cassandra, whatever that means. Feel free to dispose of all your worries by leaving them on her doorstep!