Saturday, July 17, 2010

Present Company Excepted (of course)

Crossing the street at lunchtime yesterday, I passed two people deep in discussion with one another walking in the opposite direction and heard one of them say to the other, 'and all of them are either midgets or morons.'

I confess to NOT looking around to see if the circus was in town (Congress is back from vacation, so that might be the confusion) as I knew the speaker was offering some pejorative characterizations of people with whom he disagreed, and was exercising his vocabulary skills to characterize them.

I knew a man who did that with words borrowed from a language he didn't speak and years afterwards I discovered, to my delight, I was only a thief and not a whatever I feared I was being called at the time I was being called it. In some respects that felt like a promotion, without the pay raise or the bigger office.

But still, reducing the world to two sorts, that's a sweeping statement, when you get down to it. Everyone (else) is a whatever we dislike. Not you and me, mind you-those other folks, whoever they are. What John Kennedy Toole called "A Confederacy of Dunces". And yeah, you can probably download it to a Kindle or whatever other not-a-book-but-works-like-a-book-devices are available and enjoy it this summer as a beach book, but please don't because it's a serious book and you should have to have socks on while you enjoy it (other clothes as well, of course, but spare me the sandals).

And maybe it captures who we are as a species among all the others on this planet. Heck, for all we know, maybe every life form looks at every other life form as a midget or a moron and behaves accordingly (cats come to mind immediately). All of our lives are alliances of one kind or another, some more fleeting than others. In the primary grades we had a partner for the bus #2 to go home-in high school, we had lab partners, in college, perhaps, study buddies, at work a mentor or someone we regard as one and in our private lives, someone we come home to.

And in each of those situations, we create egoisme a deux, which is how we make our way, forming and breaking bonds every day until the day the clown car comes to a screeching halt in front of someone we thought we really knew and then how surprised we are as we step out of the back seat to see the look in their eyes and realize we are, sadly, a little too tall to be the former.
-bill kenny

No comments: