Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Unsympathetic magic


By JOHN REMBER

I've been away.

I missed Black Friday at the Wal-Mart in Nampa. I missed Christmas, and I haven't heard "Little Drummer Boy" once this holiday season. I missed New Year's Eve, which is nothing new, since for the last decade or so I've been asleep by the time the ball dropped in Times Square. I missed the rain in January. I missed the NFL playoffs. For that matter, I missed Fox News and Rush Limbaugh. I missed C-Span and presidential pronouncements, war and rumors of war, congressional hearings, more cash infusions to financial institutions, free-market ideologues, giant blizzards, Bristol Palin on "Dancing With the Stars," the Incredible Shrinking Idaho Statesman and a night in Sawtooth Valley when the temperature hit 40 below.

Don't think I missed any of these things in the sense of yearning for them. In fact, life was much better without them. The one thing I missed that I've yearned for in retrospect was the Boise State-Nevada game. If you were awakened at 3 a.m. by a faint scream of "Yes there is a god!" that was me, in Vietnam, finding out that Satan had backed out of his contract with Boise State's field-goal kicker.

Of course, if I had been in Reno when Boise State got beat, I'm certain Boise State would have won and the terminally obnoxious fans of Bronco Nation would have spent all of 2011 claiming the Rose Bowl was the real national championship game. The Perverse Sports Gods show up when I watch any sporting event, and the bad guys win. I haven't watched a Yankees or Dallas Cowboys game for years for just that reason.

There are other perverse gods out there, and if I hadn't gone far away, it would have rained even more in January until the snow was all gone. Then the clouds would have cleared off and it would have dropped to 55 below. Fox News would have had even less-intelligent anchors and higher ratings. Congresspeople would have lied more on C-Span. Obama would have further anatomically accommodated the big banks. Rush Limbaugh would have further perfected his technique of tempering deliberate ignorance with scorn. Bristol Palin's dancing dress would have made her look even chunkier. The Statesman would have turned into a tiny tabloid with its pages devoted exclusively to foreclosure notices. "Little Drummer Boy" would have played 24/7 on every radio station in the country from Thanksgiving to Groundhog Day.

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So you see that I had to leave for a while.

Still, developmental psychologists tell us that human infants go through a stage where they see themselves not just as the center of the universe but as the universe itself. If they close their eyes, other people disappear. If they're hungry, the world is hungry. If they're angry, the world is just the scenery for their tantrum. Take them out of the world, and the world ceases to exist.

The psychologists call this stage Primary Narcissism, and not everyone gets out of it on schedule. Lots of people old enough to know better think that the world won't go on without them.

Hosni Mubarak is only the latest of a long line of people who have confused their own existence with that of the universe, but the truth is that no one is essential. If Ben Bernanke were to disappear tomorrow, the Federal Reserve will continue to inflate the dollar until it qualifies for the Macy's Parade. If Vladimir Putin falls down a stairwell at the Kremlin, Russia will soon have another autocrat. Should Dick Cheney's electro-mechanical heart stop humming away, there won't be a sudden shortage of Republicans sneering at attempts to rein in health-care spending.

So my belief that the wrong folks win when I'm there to witness them winning is probably just another manifestation of Primary Narcissism, and is something I should get over. Giving me season tickets won't really guarantee that the Yankees win the World Series. My turning on the radio any time after Halloween only seems like it causes the "Little Drummer Boy" to pick up his drumsticks. Rush Limbaugh isn't going to be capable of yet more depravity if I accidentally listen to him.

Still, while I've been writing this, the Super Bowl has been going on. Julie went down to the Kasino Club in Stanley to watch it, but I refused to go because I was afraid if I watched, the Steelers would win. She's just returned, and the Steelers got beat. Make of that what you will.




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