I have a few recurring daydreams, most of which are pure escapist fantasy; I like to pretend that this life is just the dream in between my adventures in space.
Over the past few years, though, most of those daydreams have been supplanted with one very detailed and unpleasant fantasy. It goes thusly: I am a talk show host. Essentially everyone watches my show. It is a political talk show, much like most of those that you can already watch, with a few key differences: First, my show consists almost entirely of one interview per hour-long episode. Second, I have some infallible means of compelling my guests to tell the truth. Third, when I ask someone to come on my show, they are legally obligated to appear. The questions would vary depending on the guest and why I want to talk to them, of course, but the first question I would ask every one of my guests is, "Why are you such an asshole?"
That's also the title.
Much of this daydream is simply adding new names to the list of people I'd like to villify on my show. Here are some, presented in the order they came to mind: Dick Cheney, Donald Rumsfeld, Tim Geithner, Ben Bernanke, Larry Summers, Lloyd Blankfein, Hank Paulsen, Alan Greenspan, Paul Volcker, Milton Friedman, Dinesh D'Souza, the Koch Brothers, the Pope. There are many more.
I create both sides of these interviews in my mind. They're essentially wish fulfillment, with me asking Dick Cheney, "When you lied to the world about the WMDs in Iraq, did you feel guilty, or did you share Bush's 'moral clarity'?"
"I thought that what we were trying to accomplish justified the methods we had to employ."
"The ends justified the means? Really?"
"And what were those ends?"
"Continued American economic dominance in the region."
"Because Saddam Hussein had been in talks with France and some other countries to move Iraq's frozen assets from American banks, and to start doing business in the Euro instead of the dollar, and you didn't want Iran or any other country to get any ideas."
I ask the Pope, "When did you first decide that you didn't have any problems with pedophilia?" I imagine he gives some arbitrary date; it doesn't really matter when.
And so on.
This daydream always always always puts me in a funk. It reminds me that nobody who makes the world a worse place by any means aside from small-scale murder or petty thievery is ever held accountable. And it forces me to inhabit a mental space where I am professionally furious.
Longtime readers may remember when I wrote about Tim Kreider's book, Twilight of the Assholes. It's a harrowing bunch of comics, drawn in the second half of George W. Bush's administration, when it seemed like this country was going steadily more insane with fear and safety obsession. He has since given up political cartooning, and it's easy to see why: that kind of invective can't be sustained without poisoning your whole persona. Now, he writes essays, and recently published a collection called We Learn Nothing. There is very little discussion of politics; instead, Kreider uses each essay to discuss some specific aspect of humanity. The book reads like a love letter to his friends; most of the essays involve them in one way or another, and nearly half of them focus on one of them specifically.
Kreider tries to be bitter with the book, but the raw vitriol of his comics just isn't here. Not that there's anything wrong with that; it's just, We Learn Nothing was written by a much happier man than the one who wrote Twilight of the Assholes.
There was an article on Rachel Maddow in a recent Rolling Stone*. After reading it, my advice to any fan of hers is, "Do not get attached." Everything about her says to me that she cannot keep this up. She's a perfectionist and she gives a fuck, which would be enough right there, but she also hates being on the inside. And not only is she paid to be angry, like every other pundit, she's paid to be angry and then pretend she isn't.
This is a recipe for a breakdown.
I hope I'm wrong, and she keeps it up for the next twenty or thirty years.
The kind of person who can sustain focused hate and fury for more than a few years is the kind of person for whom those things either already were the norm or became so because they spent so much time with them. This is why I do not believe that people like Rush Limbaugh are faking it; I find it far more believable that he is exactly what he appears to be: a racist, a blowhard, an idiot, and above all, an asshole. Which would explain why he has like a thousand divorces.
This little dream of mine only started after I made an effort to pay some damn attention. When it became clear that the people whose job it was to unfuck everything were being paid by the people who profit off of fucking everything, I built a context that would let me deal with that.
I'm a little worried that my daydreams will warp me; if the cost of being informed is constant fury, I'm not sure I want to pay it.
That's all for now.