Monday, July 27, 2009

The Crazy Train of Summer

I've blogged about the joys of summertime in Phoenix in a previous post, so we're not riding that bus again. As our high temperatures sit well north of 110 degrees (114 forecast for this afternoon) with little sign of abatement for the next three days, the unrelenting, monotonous heat is making everyone here mean, irritable and cranky. I didn't include "crazy" since crazy is a facet of life in Phoenix that knows no season, but the sudden burst of baffling behavior across the country makes me wonder what's up. People in, say, Boston can't blame the heat like we do.

Has anything interesting happened in Boston recently? Well, someone tried to break into their own house and the police didn't like it. No sir, not one bit. Harvard professor Henry "Skip" Gates (and I'm not going to ask how a black man got the nickname "Skip") found his front door jammed upon his return from a trip so he broke into his own house. The police were called and things kind of went to hell after that, with the professor being arrested and booked for disorderly conduct (charges since dropped) after an acrimonious encounter with the police sergeant in command. From all accounts it sounds like what should have been a minor incident turned into a show of temper and macho posturing, and the media have conflated it into a major racial issue. Both sides dug in their heels and accusations of "racial profiling" were raised.

Racial profiling has become such a flash point of race relations in this country, which seemed to radically improve for a while when Obama became president. Not so fast, I am told, racism is still alive and well in this country, and that's true. The news this morning said that there was no mention of race in the original 911 call to report the "break-in." Is it such a big difference to say "There's a couple of guys breaking into my neighbor's house" as opposed to "There's a couple of black guys breaking into my neighbor's house?" In the second sentence you're just adding observational information which happens to be true, information which might conceivably make apprehension easier. Is that racist? I don't know. At any rate it seems that "beer diplomacy" is making its entrance on the national scene as both aggrieved parties have been invited to come to the White House and have a brewski with the Prez and hopefully work out their differences. A certain amount of detente was achieved with Communist China several decades ago with "ping pong diplomacy," which used the game of table tennis to start a dialogue, so diplomacy involving unlikely activities can sometimes work. I'm hoping it does in this case, because we really need to get past this.

The caboose on our Crazy Train of Summer is occupied by recently minted ex-governor of Alaska, Sarah Palin, who just will not go away in spite of all my frantic bargaining with the universe to reform my behavior and become a devout Christian if she would just slip and fall into a huge peat bog somewhere in the melted tundra of Alaska and disappear forever. But no, she has to stage a series of picnics in her state to say goodbye over and over again to the people who voted for her, supposedly in good faith that she would actually fulfill her commitment and serve her term. What she's going to do in the near future we're not sure, but you can bet the rent it will be unpleasant to the extreme.

But since Palin has never met an open microphone she didn't like, she jumped on every opportunity to bleat in her annoying, fingernails-on-a-blackboard Caribou Barbie voice that she loves the Alaskan people so very much but doggone it, those pesky ethics accusations were just too much of a chore for her to deal with. She is like an incredibly bothersome seven-year-old girl who drives everyone insane with an endless stream of self-centered, narcissistic demands, like "Look at me! I'm quitting my job!" and "Look at me! I'm gonna write a book!" and "Look at me! I'm walking out the door!" and "Look at me! I'm (fill in whatever you want)."

They even asked her Eddie-Bauer-mannequin of a husband, Todd, what they were going to do now and he mentioned something about going bear hunting. Hey there Toddster, you want to have a really interesting experience? Why don't you lose the high-powered rifle and go mano-a-mano with one of those grizzly bears? I can just about guarantee you a unique adventure you'll never forget. And if you survive, you can truly call yourself an outdoorsman because you met nature on its own terms and won. I know that leveling the playing field and being fair is nothing you nor your wife know anything about, since it's way too much fun to use those helicopters and automatic weapons to indiscriminately slaughter wildlife at taxpayer expense for no good reason whatsoever, but why don't you try it for once? It would make so many people so very happy, which would give a certain amount of meaning to your boring little life.

When I was a child my parents would talk about the "dog days of summer" and I was always intrigued by that. Turns out that phrase came from the fact that starting in early August, the Dog Star Sirius - Alpha Canis Majoris, the brightest star in the nighttime sky - would rise and make an appearance in the pre-dawn sky right before the sun came up. So as we stumble into the dog days of summer, we can only hope that the Dog Star will bring some of the common sense and cheery optimism of our canine companions into the collective consciousness of the nation. God knows, we could use a shot of sanity right now about as much as we could use a big blast of cold air from Canada.

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