Thursday, November 28, 2019

Candor is a privilege

     Aunt Marsha and her daughters won't be at our Thanksgiving this year. They're from the New York branch of the family, have never come to visit and never will. Too good for us, I suppose.

     But if they were there, or we there, I would not delve into their support of Donald Trump, which I learned about from my mother. "Hey Aunt Marsha, you're an idiot carrying water for a traitor" does not seem something that the hospitable host would say, particularly not to an aged relative. I don't even say that to strangers, not much, not anymore.  Why bother? If they were open to suasion, they wouldn't believe as they do. No need to descend into abuse; they're better at it. They have more practice.
     This simple truth seems not to be so easy for people to grasp, based on the number of articles in what was once called the popular press—and now is what? The unpopular press?—on how to talk about the Trump enormity over the holiday table.
    Here's a thought: don't.  Not to offend my colleagues in the news trade, but why? Candor is a privilege, not a right. I have to respect you to spend time birddogging your errors. So if you are lost in some delusion: astrology, religion, an unmerited faith in con men and traitors like-oh-for-instance-Donald-Trump, I will not take your hand and try to lead you away from your folly. Why bother? You're lost, and if it were in my power to guide you out, I would. But I can't. It would only upset you and annoy me, like the old joke about teaching pigs to sing ("Never try to teach a pig to sing; it wastes your time and it annoys the pig.")
     Sure, it's annoying for some loudmouth uncle to channel whatever psycho-fucking-bullshit was featured last night on Fox News. It can be difficult, I imagine.  But not as difficult as snapping at the bait. Because that's what those opinions are: traps, dug for anyone careless enough to fall in. That's what most of the Trump dynamic is about: finding someone to abuse and bully so you can feel better about yourself. 
      Let me tell you a trade secret: there's no need to play along. You can completely ignore the mean, the crazy, the ignorant. Let them find their victims elsewhere. I have a spam filter filled with harsh people talking to themselves, like lunatics sitting in windowless cells, howling, gabbering to the wall. You know when I read their emails? Never. Almost never. Only if I'm stumped and want to reach in and find something stupid to set upon a plinth for people to laugh at.  My eyes don't fall on one in 50.
     This might hurt their feelings. Boo fuckin' hoo.They might feel neglected. I wouldn't know. They might complain. No doubt they will complain, that I'm just too timid to behold the wonder of their magnificent truths. That's fine. Let 'em complain. I won't read those either. Because between the frictionless malice of social media and the validation for caustic lunacy that comes with Donald Trump, we find ourselves in a Carnival of the Mean and Dumb. But just because they're dancing doesn't mean we have to clap. Time is finite; don't waste it on fools.
     You have to protect your boundaries, to not let the poison in. 
     Not a very Thanksgiving-like sentiment, I know, and I'm sorry. The truth is, I had a full, fun day Wednesday, finishing up a special, double-length sports column for Saturday, then picking the boys up at the airport, collecting my parents and hanging around, having fun, going out to a festive Greek dinner. Conversation ranged from whether a contract carries extra weight because it's written in blood (no, there's case law; California, naturally) to what kinds of soup would make good names for children (Chowder for a boy, Jambalaya for a girl) to who Sloopy is in the song and why she needs to hang on. Nobody was mean. Nobody was stupid. Everybody played nice together like a string quartet. Thursday is one of my favorite days: Thanksgiving, starting with me whipping up stuffing for 27 guests. I hope you have an enjoyable one, and thank you for reading this past year. I hope you are not saddled with a crazy, mean person, or are that sort of person yourself. If you are, and you're reading this, and since I am in essence a hopeful man, I will observe that just because everyone is staring into their plates as you prattle on doesn't mean they are awed by your eloquence. Perhaps some reflection is in order if only you could, you know, do that sort of thing.  



  1. Happy Thanksgiving to you and yours!

  2. Thanks for another good year, Neil. I am also thankful for the bit of wisdom, acquired early in life, to recognize bragging blowhard liars and avoid them like the plague.

  3. Happy Thanksgiving, Neil! Reminded me of last Sunday's Monty cartoon(Politically Correct-O-Specs.) Glad you were not in need of them!

  4. Happy Thanksgiving to you and yours, Neill. Thanks for your columns and for your books.

  5. Things are much better so far this year. Stock market is way up, unemployment is way down, and the economy is showing reasonable growth. I managed to start up a new company this year, and it's going well. To put the cherry on top, I made my decades old annual fruitless pilgrimage to Whole Foods looking for frozen cherries. Holy E-cigarettes, there they were, Omena Organics Michigan individually frozen tart cherries. Is it possible one of the many regulations he who can not be named canceled by Executive Order, broke the Oregon canned cherry monopoly? Is this enough to respect him one iota? Well I did have waffles for breakfast, so leave it at that.
    So last week caller ID showed State of Illinois Dept of Revenue, oh poopy these calls newer go well. "It looks like you made a mistake setting up your Illinois MyTax registration." Oh double poopy. "Let me bring on an agent from the IDES." Oh no conference call I'm f(@#ed, thinks I. Ba,ba,ba sorry I guess I should have had a CPA help in setting up the LLC, I'll get right on... No, no we just have a few questions. Simple to answer, they replied "that's what we thought you were trying to do. The information you provided would result in additional tax liability. Do we have your permission to correct the mistake?" Yes, yes please do, I squeak. No need for a CPA says they, and provided the web address for the instructions. So is this a continuation of Rauner policy or something Pritker came up with? Who knows, who cares? My Illinois residency, I think I'll keep it.

  6. Over the Labor Day weekend, I reconnected with my retired Army lifer cousin for the first time in fourteen years. I had mixed feelings about hanging out with "The Cuzz"--because you have to walk on eggs and be careful what you say, especially about politics (If you want to get political, you have to be drunk to do that). Best to avoid the subject completely. While we were still sober, and not yet stunk and droned... he proclaimed that 2020 would decide whether America stays capitalist or becomes socialist. But I wouldn't bite.

    My wife later told me how proud of me she was about my not taking the bait. Coming from her, that is high praise, and very rare. I normally jump right in with both feet, and the consequences be damned. It would have been just another pointless pissing contest. The kind nobody ever wins and which all contestants end up as losers. So why bother? This time, I didn't. Maybe I'm finally wising up in my geezerhood.


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