When your hearing gets so fuzzy you hear the word “peanuts” as “penis,” it's time to stop in at the hearing-aid shop, lest one day you go to the ballgame and get arrested for indecent exposure.
A reasonable man will do this. A man who prefers to live by what he imagines is a danger to himself and others. You tell him his pants are on fire and he grabs you, thinking you asked him to dance, and now your pants are on fire, too.
This is what we are seeing in America this year, and soon we shall find out if a majority of people prefer to be deaf. The Republican Party constabulary has rushed to embrace Mr. Btfsplk, a man whom they loathed, scorned and despised a few months ago, and now begins the campaign to make Mrs. Clinton seem so despicable that Mr. Btfsplk will shine a little by comparison.
Hillary Clinton will be giving her standard mail-order stump speech about equal rights, climate change, health care, gun violence, foreign policy. The Republican campaign will basically be: Alien three-armed woman carrying leftist virus from distant galaxy gives birth to 4,000-year-old Satan with transparent head. If his audiences grows weary of that, Mr. Btfsplk will switch to: One man in America has the power to heal with the touch of his hand, and you’re looking at him.
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Henry Louis Mencken said, “The men the American people admire most extravagantly are the most daring liars; the men they detest the most violently are those who try to tell them the truth. ... On some great and glorious day the plain folks of the land will get their hearts’ desire at last and the White House will be adorned by a downright moron.” Well, we shall see about that.
Meanwhile, how shall we spend the next six months while this performance plays out? Ordinarily, we'd follow the news, but this year, what is left to find out? Even the angry white dudes who love Mr. Btfsplk and enjoy the consternation he causes among elderly librarians and Unitarians are getting a little tired of the act.
Most Americans of voting age have made up their minds that the man is bad medicine. If you walked aboard a cruise ship in Florida and saw a peroxided captain strutting the deck and hollering about his prowess as a navigator and how popular he is with his passengers, you would pick up your bags and head for the gangway.
I spoke with a congressman the other day who told me he doesn't fly home on weekends as other members of Congress do because, he said, “all you do is hang around with a lot of political junkies who make you feel more important than you really are.” A remarkable confession for a famous man to make. Maybe Eugene McCarthy had a point when he said, “Being in politics is like being a football coach. You have to be smart enough to understand the game, and dumb enough to think it's important.”
The man with the red baseball cap with the slogan about making America great again is smart enough to know how dumb that is, the idea that he represents American greatness. It is remarkable that a major political party has decided to embrace stupidity, but I don't intend to spend six months stewing about it.
Here is what I plan to do instead:
1. Stay out of the sun. Overexposure to sunlight throws a person's brain out of whack. Look at the well-tanned people around you.
2. Hang out with teenagers. They're the ones most affected by the election and they're oblivious. You stand on the periphery and witness extreme coolness followed by squealing, bitter envy and cold fury, convulsive laughter, rapt adoration, the whole gamut of feeling, and nothing about taxation.
3. Chop wood. It's good for a man to do hard labor. Even if you use a chain saw and a gas-powered splitter, it's still work. You cut and split a cord of firewood and it takes your mind off the insanity of politics.
4. Ride the train and look at American greatness. It's not Fifth Avenue or a golf course or casino, it's in the backyards and factories and farmland of the heart of the country. That's the country my parents knew. So I'll ride the Amtrak’s Coast Starlight from Los Angeles to Seattle, then the Empire Builder east to St. Paul, and when I get to Minnesota, I'll be OK.
Garrison Keillor is an author, radio personality and now a weekly columnist for The Washington Post.