Gorgeous green spring came suddenly to Minnesota this year after weeks of tedious budding and blooming, a great burgeoning of foliage, and Bleak Street became the Via Paradiso, and we pale stoics took out pen and paper and wrote, "O love love love you are the best who ever was" or words to that effect, and we sat outdoors in the evening and thought of various reforms we mean to institute. More joyfulness, kindness to strangers, a general quickening of spirit, etc.
I once knew a man, a true iconoclast, who drank bourbon for breakfast and chain-smoked Pall Malls and held severe views about women, the church, American lit and society in general, a sort of post-beatnik, and every spring he vowed to reform and clean up his house, which had holes in the ceiling where he had poked his broom handle at the squirrels who ran around in the attic. It dawned on him what a mess he'd made of his life, but he fought off reform with Jim Beam, and the last time I saw him he had just purchased a pistol, and I said goodbye. I had no interest at all in being shot by a drunk.
I thought of him when Don Eyebrows got fired by CBS and MSNBC in that outbreak of righteousness during which people lined up to be outraged by what the man had said on his radio show, even if they hadn't heard him say it, though it seemed to be the sort of stuff CBS and MSNBC had paid him so handsomely to say.
The bad boys of radio, he and Howard and Johnny J and the Big Honk, are not shocking to anyone who has spent a few hours in a bar where people drink liquor and speak English. They're loud and vulgar, and so what? There's an audience for that. Plenty of young men feel so squashed by life, they are thrilled to hear other men rasping and hollering about wimmen and the gummint and the danged liberals, and what harm does it do me if the Honk does his act for the poor schlumps stuck in rush hour? No harm at all. The Honk is exercising freedom, bless his heart, just like the snake-handler at the carnival or the man who eats flies. If you don't like it, don't look.
When you think of how Mr. Eyebrows had to sit in sackcloth and ashes and apologize, all for an outburst you can hear in a back booth at Bud's Lounge, and then you think of the lasting damage the Current Occupant has done to this country, a man who lends new richness to the word "malfeasance" and who is deaf on top of it and relaxed and pleasant in the face of fresh revelations, you see what a crazy country this is, but then we knew that a long time ago.
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The French have a new president, the British will soon have a new PM, and we envy them as we endure the endless wait for this small, dim man to go back to Texas and resume his life. His party is coming to see that it must figure out how to tell the truth about him if it is to compete in 2008, but so far nobody has stepped forward and wound up to throw the pie. Their clock is stuck in the fall of 2001. They are sleepwalking toward the precipice.
Meanwhile, it is spring, glorious spring. An 80-year-old woman I know, who never had literary aspirations that I was aware of, has written a beautiful memoir. The son of a violist who plays in an orchestra with my wife has gone off to serve in Iraq, a boy brought up in a liberal household dead set against toy guns and violent TV shows. A tall sweetheart of a man who has done exceedingly well in the digital biz has sent an upbeat letter saying he has liver cancer and asking for prayers. My little sandy-haired, gap-toothed daughter shoots baskets in the driveway, and when she hits a swisher she pumps her fist ("Yes!"). My mother has turned 92, still in her own home.
Everyday reality of life in America, and neither the Big Honk nor the Current Occupant seem clued in to it. They both serve the same dwindling clientele of angry, privileged white people; meantime the trees are in bloom and the beloved country looks at the calendar and waits for leadership that is worthy of it.
Garrison Keillor's column appears Thursdays in The Sun. His e-mail is email@example.com.
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