Wednesday, June 18, 1997 — “A Strictly Personal Disillusionment?”

NPR was hot on the trail of the tobacco story. Their angle featured discussion of tobacco sponsoring of auto races, and the irresistible glamour to kids of seeing cigarette brand names on sexy race cars. Obviously this has to be stopped. In another continuing story there were reports that the U.S. Congress is speeding to pass a bill making it impossible for a veteran who receives the death penalty to be buried in Arlington National Cemetery. Take that, McVeigh.

Also, the Southern Baptists were deciding to boycott Disney products, claiming that the company is encouraging homosexuality and other forms of immorality. On WWDB, talk show host Susan Bray (aptly named) was soliciting opinions from those who’d seen The Little Mermaid and The Lion King. The Baptists were claiming that the minister who performs the wedding ceremony for the mermaid and her beau becomes sexually aroused during the ceremony. They further asserted that two of the characters in The Lion King are gay. I listened to two or three calls before I couldn’t take any more of Susan Bray’s loud Aussie accent. One caller disputed the charge about the characters in The Lion King, saying that they’re obviously modeled on pre-adolescent little boys, not gay adults. Another caller quoted from the Bible and endorsed the Southern Baptist position. Go figure.

Today I told Patrick about my idea for the diary ā€“ already started. He liked it. I also expressed my reservations.

‘A lot of it will be just you and me talking the way we do,’ I said. ‘And we’re pretty easy to dismiss. I’m a divorced and childless bankrupt, a burned-out corporate consultant, a failed writer whose satire is too controversial to get published. And you ā€“ well, you’re almost as bad. You’re a lifelong churchgoing Christian, a CPA who’s eternally at war with the IRS, a former pro-life activist, a former tax reform activist, and you carry a handgun almost everywhere you go. You home-school your kids. You don’t let your wife have a career. And you read far more than is good for you.’

‘All true,’ replied Patrick, smiling.

‘And neither one of us is from New York, Los Angeles, or inside the beltway. There’s no way anyone could consider us experts about anything.’

‘But the way you’ve described the diary,’ Patrick said, ‘I don’t see a problem. We’re American citizens, which is a group that doesn’t get heard from very often. We just happen to be out here in it every day, trying to make sense of what’s going on. We’re on the receiving end of the regulations and the tax laws and the government policies that the ‘experts’ are pretending they can explain to us. Maybe there are other people out there who’d like to eavesdrop on somebody who’s really trying to think about it all and doesn’t have all the latest facts and figures anymore than they do. I think it would be interesting.’

‘There’s another thing,’ I said. ‘Something I have doubts about.’ I explained that even to me, it seemed possible that my perspective was poisoned. There was so little about life in America that I enjoyed anymore, so little that I wanted other than to be left alone by all the bureaucracies and authority structures. I certainly didn’t feel any desire for ‘things,’ the great American pastime. I was desperate to dispose of the big house you’re supposed to want, even though this one had been in my family for three generations. I was no longer captivated by any part of popular culture ā€“ not movies, not music, not NFL football, not sitcoms, not talk shows. It had been more than a year since Iā€™d been able to read an issue of Time Magazine, and I had recently canceled my newspaper subscriptions. ‘What if my critical observations about America are merely the reflection of a strictly personal disillusionment?’

“All I can tell you,’ said Patrick, ‘is that I talk with you nearly every day, and I don’t believe that’s true. I know you’re still passionately interested in ideas. It’s what you’re observing about America that’s causing your loss of interest in all these other things. And part of your disillusionment is that there doesn’t seem to be anybody to tell.’ .
‘Other than you,’ I said.

‘And it’s the same for me,’ Patrick replied. ‘So maybe we both are crazy, but that doesn’t necessarily mean that our craziness is irrelevant. Aren’t Americans supposed to be opinionated and individualistic?’

‘Sure,’ I agreed. ‘Sure they are.’

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *