Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Foot-In-Mouth Disease

Elvis Costello--"Waiting For The End Of The World" (mp3)



My poor father. I feel like he has cycled through at least 5 different "favorite" Republican candidates in the last month. First there was Trump then the always-favorite Mitt then Daniels then Newt and now probably Pawlenty. The one he really liked was Newt Gingrich. Has, in fact, liked him for a long time, but for his sexual indiscretions and what my father now calls his tendency "to put his foot in his mouth."

I was sitting at lunch with a friend today and we got to talking about similar topics and somehow it came to one or both of us what that really means. People like to say all the time, "Yeah, he really put his foot in his mouth that time" or "I wonder what a shoe tastes like." We take it as a given. We take it as a negative.

But what my friend and I realized was that the phrase is really kind of a positive. Usually, if you put your foot in your mouth, it means that you told the truth. The problem, of course, is that you told the truth to someone whose hearing of the truth was going to cause trouble for you. So, my English colleague who accidentally hit reply to "English" instead of just to me, got a response from the headmaster, who (invisibly, though everyone knows it) gets all email that is sent to a department like "English." My colleague made a comment that, while true, wasn't necessarily the kind of truth that you speak to headmasters.

Same with poor old Newt. He epitomizes the problem that all Republican candidates face: in unguarded moments, most of them hold values, moderate values, that normal people like you and I hold. It's just that they can't state those values publicly, lest the religious and far right and Teapartying wing discover that they are not nearly as conservative or as religious as they must pretend to be to have any hope of getting the Republican nomination. So Newt says what he really thinks about Paul Ryan's inhumane Medicare proposal and, all of a sudden, his whole campaign is trying to do damage control.

We've all done it. Ironically, the greatest example of a lack of self-control may be letting the truth slip out. The harsh truth. The brutal truth. Even the honest truth.

But, this newsrich has yielded an even more definitive way for someone to put his foot in his mouth. I'm talking, in case you can't tell, about predicting the end of the world. Now, I'm not fully ready to make fun of someone for predicting the end of the world. After all, I once predicted the imminent demise of my Fantasy Football league and was soundly proven wrong. And even one of the founders of this great school went up on the Ridge and waited for the end of the world.

So, predicting the end of days, the Rapture, the premise of bad John Cusack movies is perhaps a bit more mainstream than you might think. It's our damn need for closure.

But here's where it gets dicey. If you are going to predict the end of the world and it doesn't turn out well for you, for gosh sakes, have the decency to shut the fuck up and disappear yourself. Hey, we all take risks, go out on limbs, sometimes take even really big risks, but you took the biggest one of all: you said the world would end and it didn't. I'm not sure even Vegas had odds on that one. It's like when our lacrosse coach stood up in chapel this year and said that after the dust settled from a big game that weekend, that there would only be one team standing. He implied, nay predicted, very, very strongly that it would be our team. It wasn't. Disappear.

But the evangelical preacher Harold Camping has not had the good sense to put his tail between his legs and slink off into the sunset. No, he has tried to change the rules. As the San Fransciso Chronicle reports:

"Harold Camping, the Alameda resident who broadcast to the world that this past Saturday would be Judgment Day, told reporters yesterday that he now understands that Saturday was an "invisible" judgment day and that the true, final destruction of the world will still occur on October 21st.

Camping had originally said that those who were "saved" would go to heaven on Saturday, while those who weren't saved would live in a kind of hell on earth here until October 21st, when the world would end for good."

Now, I'm as much a believer in the "invisible world" of Cotton Mather as the next guy. I really am. But not as a way out of a Major League gaff, a pompous decision to read the mind of God. Certainly not as a way to change the rules after the fact. The fact is that no one asked Mr. Camping to clue us in on when the Rapture was coming. I'm not even sure it's something that we're supposed to plan for. Should I declare right now, In Case Of Rapture There's A Perfectly Good Just Opened Ice Cold Beer Down In Bob's Basement But Please Turn The Lights Off When You're Finished?

This is not just a good laugh, a ha-ha-look-at-these-idiots. People uprooted their families, quit their jobs, stopped saving for their children's college because of this guy. Because of his cosmic diddling, Camping caused people to plan for the care of their pets after they were gone. I'm not going to laugh at that. Those are caring, well-meaning people. Now he simply says, in defense of his multi-million dollar religious empire that will not help out some of these ruined families that it is "not in the business of financial advice?" In other words, he's no better than Otter in Animal House, who responds to a pledge's brother's destroyed automobile: "Hey, you fucked up. You trusted us."

Yeah, there's people who put their foots in their mouths by being too candid, and there are preachers like Harold Camping who are better at preying than praying, who make foot-in-mouth disease a terminal condition because they cannot admit to the failure of their position, to the tangible detriment of other people. Probably, that foot needs to be stuck somewhere else besides their mouths.

6 comments:

goofytakemyhand said...

I suppose that lacrosse coach's faulty prognostication still didn't have the dire implications of a football prediction of one of your former students.

That arrogant teenage prig ruined a weeklong field trip when he convinced the rest of his class that it would conflict with the school's first ever appearance in the state championship game.

Billy said...

"These are caring, well-meaning people..."

Really? Really really? You mean that? No offense, but I call BS.

You remember Y2K?

Remember one specific coworker in particular who prepared for Y2K to turn our world into a scene from THE ROAD? I'm all but certain you enjoyed mocking him, and the only difference I see between Y2K and this moment is that lots of people predicted the Y2K apocalypse, and only one big fugly loser from California predicted this Rapture.

I have no more sympathy for people who actually listened to Camping than to those who sent Oral Roberts money back in the '80s to keep God from killing him*. If they picked up a Bible and learned to read rather than paying attention to an opportunistic loon, they might learn that no one will be predicting the End of Days.

That whole "thief in the night" thing? It doesn't include ADT protection and forewarning alarms.

* -- this isn't to say NO sympathy. Just not much.

Bob said...

Billy, we all drink different Kook- aid, but we do drink it. I'm not always sure we can simply dismiss the other guy for the swill he drinks.

Bob said...

Oops, unfortunate Iphone auto-correct: I thought I typed Kool-aid, not Kook-aid.

And, yes, DylanisGoofy, you are correct.

troutking said...

Speaking of Dylan, "Don't follow leaders, watch the parking meters!" and "Gonna change my way of thinking, stop listening to fools."

Also, when the end of the world does come, All Along the Watchtower should be the soundtrack. Jimi's version or Bob live, not studio.

Daisy said...

I think I still have some cans of sterno and matches leftover from Y2K. Too bad the rapture didn't pan out. I could have used them to set fires in the street during the looting.