by Emmett R Smith
The week-before-last, Mr Garrison Keillor, the well-known American radio humorist, experienced not so much a lapsus calami (hard enough to achieve in these days not of pen and ink, but of keyboards) as it was a rather calamitous display, of a lack of common human sympathy. As I noted in a previous column on this matter
it happened when he missed his step in an apparent passion of rage and wrote hastily thirteen unrepeatable words, that not only “described” but brutally objectified in a wrong way the wounds of a young soldier back from Iraq.
I then wrote that “Mr Keillor…went on in descending tones to write, ‘Your heart goes out to the brave young man. And what choice does he have other than to be brave? It’s either that or the life of a potato. But who did this to him?'”
A frequent-responder to Bodwyn Wook, a 2008 mathematics graduate of Augsburg College, Ferret, replied to ask:
“…[T]he soldier enlisted [so] no matter how badly he has been hurt he just has to put up with being looked at by people who don’t know anything about it…. Anyway, all I mean is that if you go too far with making the wounded soldier into ‘a victim’ of George Bush and all the other crybabies, well right there you take away his moral agency nicht wahr?”
Ms Ferret has raised thereby an important point, namely that of personal agency and moral responsibility, that of Mr Keillor and you reading this and, for all I know, of mine.
This is because what Mr Keillor so often produces in his artful nuanced way are nonetheless at bottom just diatribes on the O’Reilly-Coulter level, only in Mr Keillor’s case of unrelenting hatred against the present President (and his party).
They are well-done witty things, too, and certainly head and shoulders above any of the outflow of messrs Limbaugh and Franken — although perhaps not quite up to the mark of mine own in these Bodwyn Wook pages, certainly not as to invective art. For example, I habitually and ordinarily refer to “the objectively God-damned Mr Cheney” and this has a brilliant hardness of edge both glossy and missing at times, alas, from the screeds of the gentleman from Anoka. It is yet another unforeseen penalty, of course, of the prevailing unitarian and neo-humanist, postreligious, doubt which he expresses so well. But, for good or ill, one who stands on that sort of sand simply cannot wield credibly the “privilege of divinity,” in speech….
Also, because of the false “democratic” idea, he seemingly is reluctant to flaunt his Latin. In this case, at least feelings of inferiority are not hurt — but, again, literacy thereby suffers.
Thus this week I am gratified to report that Mr Keillor was distinctly back on track, this time about an unpleasant and noisy, very numerous, horde of patriotic Memorial Day motorbikers, who vexed and interrupted for twenty minutes or so last weekend in Washington, DC, pedestrian attempts to cross the street, to enter the National Gallery and look at Renoir and Monet and Cassatt.
This swag-bellied loud obnoxiousness the gentleman addressed with appropriate sarcasm. And it was entirely appropriately because about yet another manifestation of “us” and not the young, who after all are all our victims of course and not solely those of Mr Bush’s, and of “the objectively God-damned” Mr Cheney’s. Even more appropriate was his tone, too, because for a wonder this time it was drawn from Mr Keillor’s own actual and sensual experience.
It was not about an image that he merely “seen on Tee Vee” and then had unearned emotionality to write about.
When the gentleman this time ran down these fat hogs for their misled patriotism and — still worse — their miserable condition, namely not to have as high a taste in art as he does himself, it was entirely in context. After all, Mr Keillor had the full reek of this aging resentful American Lite Beer malehood, and motor-fumes of these heartland Harley-Davidson hidalgos and unwed fathers, now burning in his own nostrils. So he was not now merely lifting an already-abstracted vision or image, stolen for autoemotive purposes from the insides of a Tee Vee set.
Mr Keillor’s true genius is in the (usually) gentle mockery of idiocies he himself has been bathed in, by fools, and when he sticks to our halfwit underachieving 1946-64 crew he is absolutely brilliant — in the main. It is probably all because all of this hideous viagreque self-unconscious styling that we all get up to is above all just about all that we all do “best of all.” It has been ever thus since the good old Mickey Mouse Club days on Tee Vee and it really may be “all” that we have ever done (at all!) with the victory in war and all the following prosperity that our parents conveyed upon us…all.
Apart from miniaturizing all the electronic gizmoes, I mean, to match our shrinking minds to the level of our hatreds, all of one another….
For the great hazard to us altogether, and not only “the objectively God-damned” Mr Dick Cheney, is that this vicious unrelenting tide and swelling tsunami of hatred everywhere poses the very great danger that we sooner-or-later must, each and every one, “step on our own dicks” as the motorbikers say, and not only on Mr Karl Rove’s (whom one perceives might just “dig” that, so pink and fat and fine the little pig!)
To speak therefore of Mr Keillor as a fool is not-inapposite. Like the court jesters of royalty, he is the mocker at his best now of an entire generation of uselessness, he speaks truth not so much to “power” as about it, and of the powerlessness of us in America more than ever today especially over our own selves.
So Mr Keillor is indeed the true artist of the time after all — because this time at least he didn’t just tread on himself.
[Emmett R Smith all rights reserved 30 May 2008]