Cheap Seats 2016
Touchy - 01/06/16
By Rich Trzupek
If you haven’t read Dave Barry’s “Year in Review”, go find it on the interwebs right now. No hurry. I’ll wait.
As always, Barry does a terrific send-up of the year that was. Not too many things I read cause me to break out load in laughter, but Barry gets me every time. The following may be the funniest thing written about the most awful event ever:
“In Paris, two million people march in a solidarity rally following the horrific terrorist attack on the French satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo.
Eyebrows are raised when not a single top U.S. official attends, but several days later, Secretary of State John Kerry arrives in France with James Taylor, who — this really happened — performs the song You’ve Got a Friend. This bold action strikes fear into the hearts of terrorists, who realize that Secretary Kerry is fully capable, if necessary, of unleashing Barry Manilow.”
And, to be sure, I wouldn’t be surprised to find that Herman Munster is capable of that kind of ruthlessness, which I believe ranks between water-boarding and giving Hillary Clinton a foot massage in forms of torture prohibited by the Geneva Convention.
But you know what struck me most reading Dave’s take on the year? (Sensitive Millennials may want to leave the room for a while at this point). It’s how ridiculously touchy, prickly, petulant, cantankerous and grumpy a society we have become. I would go on in the same vein, but the next best synonym Word offers is “tetchy”, which sounds too much like a potentially illegal sexual act to appear in a family paper like The Mighty Examiner.
To abuse Churchill, never in the course of human events have so many been offended by so little. If you care about offending the perpetually-offended – and for the record I don’t – you constantly walk on egg-shells in today’s America. Millions are constantly on edge, ready to flip out over “insensitively themed parties”, Halloween costumes, cops, Donald Trump – OK, I’ll give you that one – and a bazillion other things.
This is a relatively recent phenomenon. Growing up in the sixties and seventies I heard more than my share of Polack jokes. As an American of Polish decent, this did not particular trouble me, much less send me into righteous rage. Pretty much everybody got made fun of and pretty much everyone dealt with it like adults.
Today, if I told my favorite Polack joke time – which would be: “Why do so many Polish men walk around with their flies open? Answer: In case we have to count to eleven” – I am sure it generate a flood of irate e-mails and Letters to the Editor, so I won’t tell it.
But let’s go back even further in our history. Let’s go back a century and a half. The American Civil War had come to an end, which was at the time one of the bloodiest wars in world history and which remains the war that took the most American lives.
It was a brutal war, a total war during which if civilians weren’t killed en masse, many lost their homes and their riches. It ended with the assassination of a President who most people, on both sides, recognized as a good, decent man.
There should have been hell to pay and to be sure there were a few fire-breathing Radical Republicans who wanted the former rebs strung up left and right. But what actually happened? The Lincoln assassination conspirators copped it; Henry Wirz, commandant at Andersonville prison was hung; Jeff Davis spent a couple years in prison; and that’s about it.
And yeah Reconstruction sucked, but considering what the nation had just been through, it could have been so very much worse. Compared “The Troubles” in Northern Ireland that lasted for decades and the ancient tribal rivalries that still result in massacres in some third world countries, America’s response to an Apocalyptic, divisive war was pretty damn mild.
That’s the way America was. Sure we have and had our faults. We’re far from perfect, but the ability to forgive and the possession of especially thick skins were two of our strengths. Those characteristics have not yet disappeared from America, but they are fading away and we’re the poorer for it.