Sunday, February 28, 2010

In Re "Pray for Pills"

While we're waiting for the thing on the purity tests, let me meander a moment.

In 2002, just as the Bush administration began to secretly torture people and employ "black sites" for prisons, and as, at the same time, the Pentagon sought permission from the Justice Department to begin to torture at Guantanamo Bay, and as it became very clear that such things were happening and that they were going to try to start an unprovoked war against Iraq, the mood in New York City's hedonistic areas was tense. Down in the Bowery, the stenciled motto I saw spray painted over and over, though, was "Pray for Pills."

Hardy-har-har, most people thought.

"This is no time for juvenile puns," my friend said, more or less. She was right.

I was fascinated by the secondary meaning, though, and the irony. I was interested in how the graffiti painter's attitude was unclear and unstable. The message itself was disposable -- a taunt typical of the punks (this was the Bowery, after all), where one attempts to puncture all sanctimony, including sanctity, and no good reason is necessary. The vehicle of the taunt, though... that was interesting. And then there is the question of exactly how much of a taunt it is, and who is being taunted. Pray for "pills" gives us "peace/pills" in tension and interchange: that is interesting.

The old "generation gap" of the 1960's, which was the most tiresome trope in journalism, theoretically went away when the Baby Boom became the journalist. (The term was nothing more than a way of saying that children occupy different horizons of expectations from the parents, which must inevitably be true, even if the generation is 1310-1330 AD.) It was tiresome for triteness, but it was noisome for taking itself seriously. "Help! I don't understand my teenager" is the subject of a never ending fascination of publishers, but the fools had the gall to present this one as if it were a once in eternity phenomenon.

The fact that the delinquent teens would make babies that would result in a second boom that would have a gap was presumed minor, and when the day came it was greeted as a marketing opportunity. The boomlet was my generation. The echo boom was the punks. (And they got to express their exasperation with "generation gaps" and "togetherness" and the pomposity of changing the world by using their only available tool: withering irony instead of manifestos. A great expression of the rage here.) After America stopped talking about "generation gaps," it adopted Douglas Couplan's foolish "generation integer" stuff, and all of that was marketing. Pepsi and Doritos and Budweiser sought out the characteristics of the generation to sell it product, not to communicate with it or educate it or reconcile it. In fact, the "generation integer" transition to marketing meant that firms wanted to exaggerate differences between parent and child so as to innovate product lines. There was money in making a generation gap, and it was annoying to both the marketing directors and the youngsters when the elders refused to play along and were early adopters.

Imagine, then, my surprise at encountering a silent generation gap when it comes to pills and peace. The graffitist is young, without a doubt, and her or his writing shows it.

"Pray for pills" can put "pill" in a linguistic interchange with "peace" and suggest either that the author wishes nothing, nationally, but only a personal high obtained from dope, or that national peace and medication are related, if not causal, or that pills will be the savior that we pray to and for. In any resolution of this irony, the author betrays the idea that the pill is greater than the individual will. In fact, for the author, it's assumed. If the author is being satirical, instead of merely ironic, the point to the satire is aimed precisely at the substitution of "pill" for "will" or "God" as the agent by which hope may be sought in time of distress.

I had the misery of being a good bit ahead of the nation in questioning what is now an accepted trope ("medicalization of mood"). Back in 1991, before Prozac Nation's self-indulgent and unenlightening novel made investigative and timid pieces possible, and before those lead to more thoroughly investigative and enlightening pieces, I held out the question, and anyone who is honest keeps it as a question, of whether the human brain's manifestations of mood (chemical production) are synonymous with its causes of mood? If not, is preventing the manifestation of mood tantamount to a treatment of the cause?

Suppose that substance Q is in the brain of people at rest. Does it make placid feelings? If a person is too tranquil, and we prevent the production of Q, are we treating the somnolence, or are we preventing the expression of the disease state? Either way, are we not effectively ceasing to ask anymore about the cause and therefore leaving it to heal, worsen, or remain without medical intervention?

In fact, are we not preventing any awareness of it? By effectively disrupting the evidence of cause, by putting a lid on the box, are we not preventing, quite effectively, any access to the box's contents? Obviously, the manic whose mania is suppressed is unlikely to think about the cause of the mania, but, additionally, are we not also making it difficult or impossible to even ask what the reason is, if symptoms are interrupted so fully as to have no access point?

To put it another way, isn't it identical to invading Iraq? It looks like there's a problem, but asking whether the problem is the man or the system or the neighborhood or the objectives of the man is time consuming. If you're a "CEO-president," you're impatient with long explanations. Besides, you decide that your oath of office is not to the Constitution of the United States, as every other president's had been, but "to keep Americans safe," and so you want to fix the problem. Therefore, you decide that, although you don't know the causes, you don't care. You know the symptom, and you have a weapon. Once you invade, you invade, but you are then there, and now you have to figure out the things you considered time consuming before invading, or else you have to just plain stay there, without an exit strategy.

I say that I had the misery of it, because I paid the price in ridicule for questioning the wisdom of doctors without being one. After all, the pharmacology could not be susceptible to logic. Logic must not be applied in these cases, for the market knows best.

Now, though, what I thought is thought by many, but most of the many have gone to conclusions. They are for or against medicating mood. They are certain that it's good or bad. I am still not. For me, it's still a question. I do not know whether medicating psychological, rather than psychiatric, complaints is wise or not. I suspect that it is done too frequently. I am sure that it is done unsafely, but the central question of cause is still open for me. The brain is far too complex for my analysis, and the mind is vaster still.

What is curious, though, is what all the commercials for Zoloft, Alli, and Viagra have done to one generation of Americans and what they haven't done to another. These commercials, and the doctors who are victims of the cutty sarks and firm featured suits the commercials send to their offices, have created a whole generation that has grown up with a complete assumption that pills are more powerful than will. You see, a previous generation believed that "no pill can make me do something" or feared that "any pill that changes my mood has raped my soul." This attitude toward medication that affected the mind was profound. There was a baseline hatred and fear of the concept that any pill could make a person, could force a person, could interfere with the most intimate, inward self. Therefore, the person believed that such medications could always secretly be fought, secret-agent-tied-to-a-chair style (the character of Morpheus in "Matrix"), or that any thing that did this was going to shatter the person and make suicide or mercy killing the only virtuous act.

I grew up sickly. I was in the hospital a good portion of my life before adolescence, and I had been subjected to narcotics before I saw the drug fear films of the 1970's. I was afraid of "smack" and "H" and "horse" and the rest for their ability to instantly transform the polite human into the depraved slave, but I didn't know that I had, in fact, been on those drugs in their polite forms on several occasions. When I realized that what the world was afraid of was the same thing, the idea that a drug could be fought off or that it would break the self was impossible to hold in the mind. I was well aware that they could be "fought off" and that, even when they were not, they never touched the inward self.

Attitudes we see now toward depression, bipolar, erectile dysfunction, mania, PMDD, fibromyalgia, etc. are all reflective of this underlying question. The people who speak aloud of their mood and mood affecting disorders are of the generation or paradigm that accepts the pill as above the individual will. Those of us who are, either by birth or marketing or suffering, also, though, accept that the pill is temporary, that it is not, in fact, a breaking of the self or fixing of the self (the honorable obverse of the pill as psychic pollutant, as psychological rapist). This is why we can come up with taunting, teasing, slogans like "pray for pills." The very same joke is no joke to some large segment of America. Those of the other mental generation hear all of these things with shame and shock. For them, each one is an admission of weakness, of lack of integrity. The need for the pill should be countered with a muscularity, a fight, for any pill is a loss of virginal honor.

Sunday, February 21, 2010

It's Coming

You know, I thought the last one was wonderful. I thought it was going to get me an invitation to the editorial board of The Dial. I braced for the impact of dozens... nay, hundreds... of learned letters about the ongoing Romanticism of lyric poetry.

Anyway, them's the breaks of the cookie crumble.

I am working on something much less fun in tone, much less lively in style, but much more socially useful. It's a discussion of why purity pledges continue to be demanded, despite always having been disasters for those proposing them. However, there is writing it, and then there is linking it, and then there is coloring it in.

Saturday, February 20, 2010

De, Da, Dum

I have written before about how, once we announce that we are offended and that we must be appeased, we have achieved the ultimate power, because the power to take offense exists independently of anyone giving offense. When our goal is harmony, instead of peace, then the most offended and most displeased person has power over the whole of the group.

Consider the United States Senate today. Its paralysis over the "notification to filibuster" is not only troubling because it says that the least happy have power to stop all things without having any necessary reasons or programs. The Republicans have not actually had any ideas for reforming health care. Their idea has been, pretty much, to stop malpractice law suits. That, needless to say, has nothing to do with health insurance. However, they feel perfectly justified in stopping all efforts at extending insurance, even efforts that they had once sponsored, under threat of filibuster, because they are not in charge.

Harmony and unison are not identical, and peace and harmony are not the same thing. Having all sides agree is not only not necessary, it is not beneficial. Having all sides cooperate is desirable, but they never will until they understand that they must honor an overriding rule that is above their individual good.

It's like pluralism. Pluralism is not relativism. Pluralism and inclusiveness is not the same thing as indiscriminate inclusion. Pluralism is a positive ideology, and it has within itself a principle of exclusion. "We allow in all groups, so long as they accept the idea of including all groups that are themselves open to inclusion" is the philosophy of pluralism. Democracy is not merely "the people vote," but rather "the people always vote to determine their government." Therefore, a democracy cannot vote to get rid of the democracy, and any vote to abolish the democracy is not democratic.

I feel like I have to point these things out, because too few people seem to know them. I feel that I need to state them rather than finesse them out philosophically because they are both axiomatic and elementary. One could take the time to work through examples and reason quietly over days and weeks to make the propositions likely, but these are, in fact, a priori within the concepts themselves. My only stretching is extending to the idea of consensual behavior. It isn't axiomatic or elementary, but I have come to believe that it is likewise inescapable that consensus means agreement when all sides understand that they cannot have their way. I.e. consensual politics, consensual corporations, consensual kindergartens, consensual communes, and consensual online editing communities are all possible only when each person gives up striving for her or his pure vision. "Consensual" is therefore an antonym to "pure" or "revolutionary" or "orthodox." The orthodox, pure, and revolutionary exist only with the application of unequal power.

I needed to do that quickly, and with none of my verbal playground stunts, because I want to talk about the auto de fe, the auto da fe, and how stupid people get when they're stressed out.

A number of conservative organizations are embracing purity tests, oaths, and other declarations these days. It has long been a feature of the conservative impulse, incidentally, as the very idea of 'return to glory days' means that one has the mindset that there is a largely invisible but inherent threat in the present, and 'return America/England/Australia/Canada/Sweden to its glory days' means that one believes that the present citizenry may be contaminated with beliefs that destroy the greater good. When this is combined with religious principles, the desire for a declaration is oddly unchanged. Many organizations associated with the Southern Baptist Church are now moving toward oaths, and this is merely the latest step in a curious evolution for a church that was once known as "the Independents" and criticized for having no unity at all. However, the way the oaths come in and the way they are organized is quite like the conservative "purity test." Instead of "creeping socialism" or division over Ronald Reagan, the presumption is that Satan is working inside those who will not sign or swear, as inward doubt is a mark of an absence of perseverance of the saints and grace (I suppose). Additionally, the institutions in question (mainly colleges) believe that they are "mission" oriented and therefore must convert, and conversions can only be performed by those who are "called" to be missionaries.

We need not dwell very long on the effectiveness of these instruments. It is self-evident that they do not work. They are like a net designed to keep the very large and the very small, while the middle sized get away. They succeed in keeping only the feckless and the fools, while the conscientious and convicted flee, and this is true whether they are applied in religion, in politics, or in culture.

What I think is worth talking about is why they do not work, and yet why people keep reaching for them, year after year, making the same historical mistakes, the same psychological mistakes, and the same cultural disgraces.

Does anyone here remember the hubbub of the flag pin in the presidential elections last year? It was all about wearing a pin showing the U.S. flag. Only patriots wore them, and anyone who didn't wear one was no patriot. Before that, there was a furore about the "Pledge of Allegiance." Back in the late 80's and early 90's, politicians vied with one another to say it loudest. They also made sure to sing the national anthem, or bits of it. It prompted me to think that the ministers of Lilliput, who had to dance on a high wire to get elected, were chosen on a more rational basis than conservative politicians in the U.S., because the public was more entertained by a high wire walker than these old white men trying to sing or look grave without looking dead.

Well, the thing about all such pledges is that they allow the certain to seek out a set of magical words, a set of words that, if spoken by the unbeliever, will cause the cursed tongue to burst into flames. They therefore represent a wish rather than a tool. They testify to the desire of the affected group, not the social coherence of it. A group can be entirely uniform in belief, completely loyal, entirely certain, and yet it can reach for the formula of the loyalty oath, the pledge, the confession of principles that all "real members" must sign or say or sing or dance (really, in some societies it's a dance). In each case, the invocation of the magic is a demonstration that the group feels like it is impure, is fearful that it is infiltrated, is nervous that its ideas or ideology haven't strength enough to survive a test (whether the test is foreign trade, education, free speech, open assembly, or discussion varies group to group and place to place).

When the Republican Party goes after a Purity Pledge, swearing to pure Ronald Reagan, they not only grant Reagan the apotheosis that Christian fundamentalists within the party really ought to object to, but they also seem to say that they are afraid that these principles are not capable of surviving in their party without such oaths. Particularly, the device is aimed at "accountability." A politician who "passes" the purity test (with its connotations of sexual inexperience being simply another troubling aspect, given that this is a party most dogged by closeted politicians and hidden pedophiles currently) can then be "held to account" when he or she casts a vote that presumably violates the pledge or test later. What's implied is that the pure principle cannot survive the jarring of practicality or negotiation. What is actually stated is that the demand is for inflexibility and "pure" or nothing.

It is this latter principle that ends up slashing the throats of those who devise such tests. The institutions, whether they're church affiliated colleges or businesses or political parties, that institute oaths and pledges for purity are stipulating a "not them" as the definition of "a good one of us." This is, first of all, an identity built on opposition, which is guaranteed to be absurd or tragic. Secondly, though, it means that the person who devises the oath is subject to the same examination by the next test giver. "Are you Baptist enough, friend," the test giver asks the test maker. "I see that you ask them to swear that the Bible is the inerrant Word of God, but you do not make everyone swear that it is the inerrant literal Word of God." In turn, that reformer is challenged, later, by another who can say, "I love the oath that you have devised, but you did not have the statement of principle say anything about how we all affirm the sanctity of unborn life, and we certainly don't want any baby killers around!"

Once an instrument of purity, or Puritainism, is in place, "purity" goes on indefinitely. Our friends the Menonites are pure. To them, the most fundamentalist protestant churches are hopelessly corrupted by man. Each element of a defining principle can become exaggerated to become an identity, and then a test question, and all in an effort to sort out the good from the bad on the assumption that the bad cannot speak lies and the good will never hesitate to swear.

"Auto de fe" is the original of what we now know as the "auto da fe." Originally, it was an act of faith. If you were sorry for your sins, you would show it in an act of faith. No one would tell you to, and no one would tell you how. The confessor would simply watch to see if you did something that showed that your faith was back so that he could be sure that you weren't paying lip service to the oaths. You see, the old church folk actually knew that people could be forsworn, that bad people had no problem swearing that they were good, that people without conscience would gladly swear to whatever was convenient. The auot de fe was not a test imposed by anyone, but rather a sign manifested by the will of the person.

Well, we all know what happened. Once the institutionalized fears came in, once the Roman Catholic Church became convinced that its ideas might not stand up in free interchange, they adopted tests of faith. Then came hunts for heretics. Then came increasingly elaborate tests to prove that a person was or was not serving Satan or Martin Luther. Then come the Inquisitors. After a person was tortured, that person would sign or say a grand confession in public, and this was the auto da fe. What had been a sign from the person became a testing outcome for assessment.

It's sad, amazingly sad, to see tests come in like this -- tests of the soul, of the heart, of the mind. It's sad, deeply sad, to see Christian schools, particularly protestant ones, adopting, increasingly, oaths, as if unbelievers will not sign or that they will somehow demonstrate their non-belief. It tells us that the groups at the helm are afraid that their faith is not strong, that their ideas cannot survive free exchange, that they believe that prosecution is better than construction. What's more, it tells us that they are, in their fear, willing to forgo looking at a person's expression of faith in favor of demanding a formulaic satisfaction of a ritual.

If the Republicans want to be a party again, they need to have dissent, debate, and discussion, and not purity. If protestant churches want to triumph, they need to have faith -- faith in the power of Christ, power in the Word that conquered the world -- faith in life's diversity and the glory of God who creates not in one type, one model, or one mold, but in endless variety.

Sunday, February 14, 2010

Of Me I Sing

Once upon a young sap rise, upon a stripling, I sat at the Smith-Corona with Red Man chewing tobacco in a cheek, beside a Peavey 400 Watt bass amplifier stack, and wrote, all night long, at poetry. The poetry that emerged, when I was fifteen through seventeen, was exceptionally anxious, as if a compensation in workmanship for the slapdashery of my surroundings and habits and habitus, and then I had a psychotic break known as college. Actually, the first year of college did not teach me much, in this respect, but it let the little maniac driving the poetry get a concussion, a skinned knee, and then, finally, a complete break. When I did not learn my lesson or win my freedom, the poetry that I wrote from ages nineteen to twenty-four was calculatedly anarchic, indebted, frustrated (sexually, physically, emotionally, and financially), and a long form code for the puzzlement of how a world that works so well in other respects could be so utterly lunatic for humans.

If you looked through the whole of this blog, you would find evidence of why "poetry" is "wrote" and why this is to the greater glory of the world. You would discover that having written it is the best thing for me and for you, alike.

(A creek in Baltimore that is much safer now that I will not pollute it with metaphors.)

However, all of those years meant I approached the curse the way that a pre-menopausal person does: as a sufferer, and therefore as a person trying to make the best of it. I always wanted other people to recognize just how bad it was (and by that, I mean how wonderful the poetry was, for poets are driven by the depths of their pain or the severity of their visions or the power of their philosophy or the height of their molehills), and I could never find anyone else who would really get it.

Well, there's nothing for it, if you're a poet, but writing a manifesto. If your poetry won't get your readers (those afflicted looking people otherwise known as friends or students), then a manifesto might do it. Of course, what you, the poet, never realize is that you're waving a white flag, that you've failed to enunciate things in your own medium (poetry, painting, appearing shaved and naked in a public fountain -- whatever your art is) and have resorted to prose and political programs, but nevertheless it's really, really attractive.

Mine was: narrative voice, war upon, hatred of, destruction to be wrought.

The social drinker trying a drunken, stoned verse form was one disguise. Another was the schizophrenic eliminating connectives. Another was the pre-verbal infant with atemporal descriptors of action. Henry Green's dangling modifiers as a method of suspension really appealed to me, even though that was theft. Finally, I thought description without action might do it. Aside from all of these things having been done by other poets, all of these things had failed in the hands of every writer of every form (except Green, and one wouldn't want his bank account). Additionally, each of these was not merely tried, but done successfully every single day by actual schizophrenics, autistics, drunks, infants, and Alzheimer's patients. My self-hatred and hatred of the lie of writers and the false "history" inherent in narrative was hardly an excuse for emulating Dustin Hoffman in "Rain Man."

Fortunately, though, I got better. Poetry might not be a disease, but being a poet as a young person is certainly co-morbid, and I was cured of poetry by a great, vast, yawning horror, on the one hand, and getting my personal oil pan filled to the requisite number of quarts, on the other.

(The shelf fungus is in the tree from seedling but only grows when the tree is down)

Now the days are no more when I worry with contributing my voice to the world or my wisdom to the lifeless sea measureless to man where the drains go. (The Dear knows no one keeps, hears, or profits by wisdom, even the wisdom of "In all thy getting, get thee wisdom," (Prov. 4:7; all the fundamentalists in the blogosphere seem to get the citation wrong or not know it at all) so it flows out from life, from experience, from meditation, and goes down to the sunless sea.) However, I again have to mess with poetry, but this time from the outside, as an hygienist with a dental pick.

Recently, I was explaining "Kubla Khan" to a class of students, and I did the advanced thing. I explained that the foreword should be there, that it's part of the poem, that the poem isn't a fragment, that the poem isn't about the son of Genghis Khan at all, that the poem is about poetry and creativity, etc. Afterward, I realized two things. First, the students were going to wonder about Coleridge's Christianity, because that's the kind of place and region I am, and that, more broadly and generally, they were going to doubt that Coleridge "meant" for the audience to understand all that. If I could convince them that the poet did expect some audience to "get" it all, then they were going to have every right to ask why someone writes a poem with that much philosophy and theory in it, and that started me thinking, and the fruits of that thinking are here in this blog.

Well, not so far, but in the next bit.

"Selfishness is the greatest curse of the human race" -- Gladstone, 1890
The Romantics set out their manifesto, and they called the tune for a lot of what has happened since then. In many respects, poets today are still Romantics. The 1798 "Preface" to Lyrical Ballads does in prose what the poets had apparently failed to do in poetry: start a movement. Let's remember that that's the preface to the second edition. In other words, the book had been out, but it wasn't Romanticism until they explained it.

I won't go on about that, but I will point out that the one formal feature that the Romantics announced was a re-invigoration of the lyric. Now, a lot of this is horse flop, because the whole Warton, Percy, Gray, Thomson stuff had been doing lyric, but this was a manifesto. The lyric is in. The lyric is it. The poem of personal emotions recalled in tranquility is The Poem. In fact, most people, when they think of "poetry" can only think of verse about the author's emotions. They can't even conceive of any other thing being poetry. That's how completely we are Romantics.

Once the subject of poetry must be the poet's reaction or psyche, then there is no choice but to start looking for interesting psychological states, reactions, and persons. Let's find the emotions of uneducated people! Let's find the emotions of victims of abuse! Let's find and then express the emotions of Seers, and let's demand that poets have super-duper special emotions to express. After all, even lovers of such poetry recognize quickly that the general run of emotions that are commonly felt are commonly expressed, commonly adequately; therefore, poets either needed to be scientists about perception or philosophers of feeling or radicals of sensation.

Stupid people, and never underestimate their number, read "Kubla Khan" and started taking dope. Stupid people, and never underestimate their persistence, began putting themselves in dangerous and meddlesome positions to collect "experience." As graveyards and psych wards fill, and as poetry becomes handmaid and gateway to psychiatry, both the arbitrarily intellectual and the gluttonously sensational run out of things to fuel them. (I never had the courage for the latter or the originality for the former.) The quality of the poetry itself is irrelevant, if not impossible to determine behind so many assumptions of reception and production.

So, young poets, do you want a manifesto? I have one for you, in all seriousness. I have great love for poetry, recite it to myself nearly every day and read it without being asked, and I read contemporary poetry as often as I can, and so I make an offer -- an amicus brief.

If you want to revolutionize poetry, write social verse.
If you want to change poetry, return to satire. Try odes. Try any form of occasional or public verse. Evacuate the ego from the attempt and replace it with the common good, and see what happens. Replace the personal desire and Desire as the subjects with Classical or Abrahamic virtues and see how those work as motives for poetry.

If you are trapped by social and political language, and you absolutely are, then poetry is a political and social act, and not by any means, ever, a personal one, unless you have the good sense, as I did, to quit it. The only personal element is saying "no."

Tuesday, February 02, 2010

Non Think

KFC, which used to be Kentucky Fried Chicken, which used to be Colonel Sanders's Kentucky Fried Chicken, is running a television ad that simply will not stop. The theme of the ad is "Unthink." In the midst of snap cuts, the voice of Chris from "Northern Exposure" speaks without a pause, and the camera slams from close up to two shot to three to close up, to twirl about the product, to zoom on faces, to smoke from the hot food, and out and back. The camera work is like the party scenes from "Laugh In," when they wanted to show the go-go dancers, or like a kung fu fight scene, when they have a heavy set actor with hands softer than newly hatched ducklings and the director makes up for it with a stop-motion montage of poses that give the illusion that someone is actually moving.

It is absurd, of course, that they want us to "unthink." One can imagine the advertising pitch meeting: "Our goal is to get the consumer to forget everything they think about KFC. They think of us as grease and fat. We want them to un-think those thoughts."

One could note that this is taking place even as the Republicans are trying to get us to unthink in the same way, which is to say forget, everything. For example, they maintain that the economic collapse is after Obama's inauguration. That is flatly not true, and they know it, but that's not the point: the point is to unthink. From polls that add up to 165% to disagreeing with themselves to being for pay as you go, until it's proposed by the president, there is a campaign of relying on public ignorance of what goes on in Congress or a campaign to cause unthink.

However, it isn't merely the "unthink" that gets me. Chris from "Northern Exposure" (when the actor is just a voice over, he's Chris from "Northern Exposure," since that was his use on that show -- the voice of calm, of philosophy, of moralizing, and therefore the actor providing a voice over for restaurants is curious and challenging) reads copy that requires unthinking, too -- unthinking the English language.

What Chris from "Northern Exposure" promises us, if we merely go into KFC, is the exciting opportunity, once we manage the Zen Koan of UNTHINK (possess nothing... hold emptiness... think the unthought) is that "great fall off the bone flavor." Now, synesthesia is fine. I have no problem smelling a beat, tasting a vision, or feeling a fart, but I do wonder what the taste of falling off "the bone" is.

Is this the taste of gangrene, or merely necrosis?

There are some of you without access to U.S. television sets, and many more who have not seen this campaign. To you, I say, "Congratulations." In fact, my topic today is, of course, to respond to the monumental insult of this campaign, but I cannot see it in isolation. I see in it either a profound laziness and unthinking response on the part of the client (KFC's marketing chicken wing), or a very nasty coalescing of cultural currents, whereby many are now concluding that Americans are not only extremely stupid, but that they are incapable of being otherwise, and "thinking," "thought," "knowledge," and "English" are alike detriments.

Consider the Tea Party jackanapes. These creatures are bizarre. They showed up, spurred on by FoxNews Channel, to protest Obama immediately after his inauguration -- before he had any legislation passed -- to protest what he was doing. They were supposedly protesting all the taxes he was inflicting, even though he hadn't proposed, much less passed, a single tax. They screamed their anger, carried guns, flirted with the Lyndon LaRouche crazies, mixed libertarian, racist, GOP loyalist, racist, and independent deficit hawks together, and they were funded by Dick Armey. See their attempts at a convention. They were angry first, had the reasons second.

Thinking and facts, reasons and reasonableness, were not appropriate. Those things were either afterthoughts or signs of, as with Sarah Palin's discourse, "Gotcha journalism." Questions were all traps, and knowledge was all unnecessary. The emotion was real, and that was sufficient.

They were ready for fall off the bone flavor.