Earlier this week I happened to catch a bit of an interview with Dennis Miller. I have always enjoyed hearing Miller’s take on things: his well tempered cynicism, wrapped inside of clever humor, is good medicine in even the best of times. This brief clip prompted me to revisit another recent appearance of Miller, this one on The Rubin Report of 29 March, 2020. I’ll not post the link here (absolutely nothing against Dave Rubin), but this podcast is easily found and I would encourage all to watch. The episode is just slightly over one hour in it’s duration, but it was only one brief exchange that has inspired the train of thought which follows. Within the context of a discussion over the current sociopolitical climate in the United States, Miller said:
“I don’t see it coming back around. I see it getting very tribal and I can only hope at some point we divvy up the albums, like a relationship that’s gone. It’s like Woody Allen and Annie Hall: we got a dead shark here.”
This can be found at 47:47 in the podcast and there is some further exchange between Miller and Rubin about this. When pressed by Rubin to explain exactly what that means (divvying up the albums? How would that work?), Miller answered honestly that he did not know. Nor did he offer any suggestions. Despite this, I still believe that he is correct. As a nation I have considered for some time that we have reached the stage where we should have “that talk”. What are we even doing here? Pretending? Maybe we just need to admit to ourselves that it’s over and that we can at least agree to move on with our lives. Apart.
Not all of us have had this unfortunate experience in our lives, but there are many who have. These lines echo poignantly, sometimes painfully in our memories, as we recognize their recurrence played out on the grander scale. The parallels are unmistakable.
The citizen in Iowa or Arkansas find themselves, rather like being party to a marriage contract, bound to the fates and fortunes of their other halves in the shape of New York or California. They may share memories of a happier time when theirs was, if not a blissful union, at least a contented one. Sharing the same roof and checkbook will force a lot of forgiveness for the minor transgression, but we all have our limits in what we will tolerate. When Miller poses this situation under such terms it is not a great leap of faith to imagine the interminable bickering in our politics as reenactments of the toxic soup of our own worst relationships.
Things may have been peachy for a long time in these unions, married or otherwise, but as life ensues opportunities for the parting of opinion multiply rapidly. Questions of finance, child rearing, education, religion (or not)… every one of these ripe for marital discord. For any who have endured these trials there is the understanding that those cases listed here are monumental: the grist for that all inclusive explanation of irreconcilable differences. Yet these are just greater manifestations of differences that reside in deeper places; the sort of fundamental differences that are oft ignored through courtship and the honeymoon era, yet these do not disappear over time. They grow and fester, sometimes boiling over, but more often being nurtured as a silent grudge. This goes on for years until one day it is discovered that despite all that has been shared together, deep down there are two parties who in the end really don’t have all that much in common. Not only is the love gone, they don’t even like each other any more.
Fragile unions seldom come to an end as a result of a single event. The end comes as a culmination of events, a reservoir of ill will and distrust that rises until that final catastrophic event breaks the floodgates. The precipitating event may come in the form of a job loss, a portfolio collapse, the death of a child. They are life altering occurrences when faced alone. Compounded upon a union that already exists under terms of a nervous truce these events often become the final deal breaker. It becomes that occasion when the parties seriously confront the fact that it is indeed time to divvy up the albums.
This unfortunate series of events does not occur in a vacuum. There are always other parties involved in the process. They come in the form of overbearing, manipulative in-laws always inserting their unsolicited advice and opinions into matters that don’t concern them. Or the gossipy co-worker with their own relationship issues providing bad counsel. There are a host of other voices in this chorus, always playing in the background while contributing nothing constructive. They are like the orchestra on the deck of the Titanic.
Whether one has had first hand experience or observed such in the lives of friends or family, these examples of dissolution are recognizable and are easily juxtaposed upon the state of our national union. Viewing the current state of national affairs through this lens it is hardly a reach to conclude that this viral panic, and all of it’s fallout, might very well be our deal breaking event. We have the rotting corpse of a giant dead shark decaying in our national living room. We are beyond the point of pretending it isn’t there. Intuitively we all sense that by some means or another this carcass will be removed. What remains to be seen is what kind of stink it will leave behind. Never mind divvying up the albums, just keep them. Let’s just talk sensible exit strategies.
For many of us the following will describe how we are feeling about the fragile emotional state of this union. We have endured a spouse who has routinely subjected us to public ridicule. Constantly. For years. Bitching about the clothes we wear, the music we like, the vehicles we like to drive. They have heaped derision upon us for our regional accents, our choice of homes, our choice of worship. Media pundits and politicos have been, just like the meddling in-laws, the cheering section for this theater of abuse. We have been demonized for gun ownership and the assertion of our second amendment rights. For every shooting that occurs a self righteous and pontificating shill has the angry white male profile all cued up before the facts are known.
We have argued about spending. Endlessly. Every time we have instituted some check to this profligacy the spouse has devised ways to circumvent these restrictions and spend the money anyway. Whether we have it or not. Time and time again. And the debt just keeps piling up.
We are no longer allowed to…… insert example here. The list keeps growing and growing. And now we find ourselves in a catastrophe of a lifetime. At least that’s what we were told. Only now we are beginning to discover that the spouse has in fact held our head under water until drowned, now means to revive us and guide us back to a new normal. The new normal is likely to entail having our hands tied behind our backs and being set to cross a major interstate while blindfolded. At night. In dark clothes.
A lot of us have the good sense to know when it is time to cut bait. We don’t want to argue about it any more, the details have become inconsequential. We’re just done. We don’t want to work it out because there is no incentive. It’s not about the albums. Now it’s all about the dildos, because the only discussion of compromise is whether or not the spouse will ram a 9”, 12” or 16” dildo up your ass. How about no!? How about you just keep all the dildos and shove them up your own ass?
Really. It will be better this way. You can go to New York or California, or where ever they “do things right” by your way of thinking. Best of luck to you. Build good walls. You will need them to keep your people in.