So, our instructor assigned us to write a story with a strong emphasis on irony. Mine is about a hypothetical future American tragedy of a coup financed and designed by the Kremlin. By way of summary, this is how it related to irony and I appended this to the story for the instructor’s edification.
“And, the most ironic part of the whole American tragedy was this: even though he spent his entire life conning others, it was beyond his ken to consider that Vlademort Putrid was likewise conning him. He had been lying and bragging so long about his competence in all things that he actually came to believe he was smarter and a better strategist than Putrid. Putrid likely could have done it alone. But, of course, he did not do it alone. Putrid had the collaboration of highly trained, highly dedicated KBG/GRU professionals to help.
“In principle, perhaps he could have enlisted American experts, but he didn’t feel the need. Furthermore, he faced a real dilemma. He couldn’t openly ask any but the corrupt for help against American interests. And those who were corrupt were generally far less competent and always less well connected to a healthy network of professionals than their more numerous and genuinely patriotic counterparts.
“I said that was the most ironic part of the whole American tragedy, but there are near contenders. Another highly ironic part of his entire con game was that the played the game as though the only thing in the universe that mattered was his own pleasure. Of course, no matter what moves he made or is yet to make, he is not actually immortal in and of himself. By lying to himself and everyone else, he essentially cut himself off from being part of The Great Tree of Life (or at least from being a non-cancerous part). Rather than living on through his actions that benefited the whole, he delimited his life, curtailed it, circumscribed it to his own physical mortality.
“The intertwined corollary of the above is that even while he lived, he missed out on the best feeling in life: being in caring and loving honest relationships. In order to absolutely and positively ensure that he grabbed as much as possible for himself, he limited his “prizes” to mere material crap and the pleasure of cruelty. “
So, this is how they responded:
“When it comes to being ironic, this is definitely A plus material.
However, sad to say, there are also some serious problems with your narrative. First, of all Americans are too well educated to fall for the lies of a known con man. And, why not simply make the character more believable? It’s not plausible that so many people would fall for the con. Apart from that, the cowardice you portray on the part of so many within his own party is also unbelievable.
Still, the mechanics of the writing was also clean, so I’m giving you a B+. Next time, focus on believability rather than forgoing that to punch the irony.”
(First appeared as part of The Poetry Exchange’s Featured Poet, Spring, 1997 under the title: “Deforested”)
Gray day wasted while the whippoorwill Wishes that the slushy city sewers Had not replaced the only lonely home he knew. The groggy foggy unfocussed hurly-burly rushing Of splashing autos on the gray macadam roadways That gnarl through the neighborhoods Is vaguely deja vu. Silhouetted smokestacks shadowly seen, Limned in gray on gray-green, Remind the mind how poor people pass the day after day. Where no home fire hearth lighted cabin In the winter woods beckons, beacons, hearkens Heartily a red sunset glow on white snow For a day’s work done.
One hardly knows.
Here, where machine clouds of steam unsentiently sip, sap the soul, You wonder as the rain water wanders, Then rushes through the gurgling gutters, What foul trick man played upon his own brave soul, To have forsaken all the fiery emotion that makes life great To sit at desks, to stand in lines, to wait. Where are the country color and The rich thick loves hidden Beneath the inventions, interventions, and pretensions of society?
We wander in our own gray-glass cages In a lurching kind of mock-precision, Like the nightmare dream of a psychotic technician. And the only color the commuter encounters In his travels to and from, Is the scarlet and the gold of a raccoon Too stupid to stay off the highways of modern civilization.
Pet Sematary (A relevant book by Stephen King which was a partial inspiration for the poem)
I was a kid once. And, like most boys brought up in the 1950’s, few things held as much pleasure as destroying things!
When winter came to Ohio, sledding was fun. Don’t get me wrong. Especially, when we took the time to go to sled down the Derby Downs track or the toboggan run behind. But a snowball fight? Especially one where you really nailed someone? That was great.
Making a snowman? That felt cool. To use free snow to make a sculpture! And, it was fun to “shape it” and make it resemble a human. But tackling it at full tilt and thus smashing it down? That was great.
Spring flooding led to overflowing gutters which led to wading in the water and deeper is better! I didn’t exactly want to have the water spill over the black rubber and pour down to soak my shoes, socks, and pant legs. No. On the other hand, I would enjoy being able to brag about it to my buddies. “I was on Elm Street & the water was deeper than my boots!” On the other hand, I wouldn’t really enjoy my mom yelling at me for it. But it wasn’t as meaningful as having bragging rights with my buddies.
For many years, I’ve thought it absurd that I lived in the supposed “Temperate Zone.” We had cold, snowy winters, flooding in the spring, thunderstorms and tornados in the summer as well as hazy hot days of summer. And, no school. So — plenty of time to get in trouble. Just to take one example, we loved to break glass. If we found an empty coke bottle or jam jar, we would put it on the ground or better, a large rock or tree stump. Then, we’d typically take turns trying to destroy the glass with a well aimed throw. We did take turns. I mean, after all, we were civilized.
Autumn leaves brought raking and piles, but more importantly, the opportunity to jump into them. (And, to some extend destroy them). And, by the way, I thought my dad was a real killjoy when, after spending an hour raking leaves, he would yell at me not to wreck it up. I thought, “What’s the point of raking up the leaves into a pile except to jump in it!?”
Even to this day, there is a part of me that would positively relish taking a sledge hammer to an abandoned house or a junked car. Or, maybe even my own car! As an adult, however, I realize that actions have consequences. And, that ideas about what to do have alternatives.
If I smashed my car, I wouldn’t be able to use it afterwards. Also, there’s a chance of really injuring myself by embedding a shard of glass or metal or hard plastic in my thigh of eye. If it’s someone else’s car, there’s the added likely consequence of criminal penalties. Besides that, penalties aside, there is karma. Most likely the person whose car is destroyed will be stressed, angry, and possibly even violent. Violence begets violence. I would have sent a wave of negativity into the community. Even if I never got “caught,” I would be contributing to a world worse that the one I was born into. Is it worth a momentary pleasure?
I can get much the same kind of “pleasure of destruction” from hitting a tennis ball hard and winning points, but at this point, it isn’t only superior power as a source of winning a point that I like. I can also experience pleasure through outthinking my opponent; by using feints; by concentrating better; by having a better plan. It feeds into the same pleasure center but it doesn’t destroy things in the process. No shards of glass.
There is only one thing worse than being a destructive little kid. That is being an adult who wants to destroy things that they don’t understand and they can’t replace with something better. Those are not actually adults. They are children in adult bodies. They should never be in a position of power. Not in politics. Not in business.
It’s natural to feel some destructive impulse, at least, if history or personal experience is any guide. It’s also natural to want to relieve yourself. But if you’re an adult, you don’t simply pee your pants because you can’t be bothered to hit the head.
Destroying American democracy because you’re too lazy to win votes, understand problems with all their complexity and try to find potential solutions, build consensus, collaborate and cooperate to improve our country — that’s a lot worse than are smashing glass, wrecking up a pile of leaves, and peeing your pants. If the very best pleasure you have is blowing stuff up, okay — get a job in demolition — not in a Constitutional Democracy.
What mainly distinguishes the two major American political parties has varies tremendously within the course of my own lifetime. And, while I’m not ancient, my life so far is about 31% of the time since The Declaration of Independence. That’s not most of the time, but it is all of the most recent 31%. Of course, if you did pay much attention in American History and weren’t just spending time surreptitiously carving your initials, passing notes, or throwing spitballs, you likely remember that the US began as rather disunited States under the “Articles of Confederation.” It wasn’t until June 21st, 1788 that it was ratified. Thus, my life so far is roughly 1/3 of the time we’ve lived under that Constitution.
The first time I became consciously aware of politics was when Eisenhower won in 1952. The principal of our school arranged to have the radio broadcast of Eisenhower. I don’t really know whether it was his acceptance speech or his inaugural speech, but I suspect the latter. Anyway, I was leading the class in cheering through much of the speech. At some point, my teacher said maybe the people I was getting to cheer didn’t really know what they were cheering for. That was probably true. It was definitely true that I had no idea why I was cheering except for two things:
1. Eisenhower had been a general partly responsible for our winning the war. My dad & all my mom’s brothers fought in WWII.
2. Eisenhower was a Republican and they were the “good guys.” I don’t recall having much of a discussion about it before hand. But I had certainly picked up that vibe.
After the teacher’s comment though, I got to wondering why everyone in my family liked the Republicans rather than the Democrats. As I recall, the basic reason given was that Republicans believed more in personal responsibility.
Later, there were entirely different reasons for disliking the Democrats; viz., the Vietnam War and beating up the protestors in Chicago.
But now? What has happened to the “Grand Old Party”?
Forget politics for a moment. In what area of life is perpetual lying a good way for people to cooperate? If the scientists & engineers lied like the Trumputinists, we would still be shivering in caves. How would you like farmers to send you poisonous bulbs and call them onions?
The fish rots from the head. That was bad enough. But that rotten fish head has been out of power for two years. But the putrefaction continues.
No platform. No policies. No allegiance to the Constitution. No sense of fair play. No limit to cruelty. No allegiance to the rule of law.
Who benefits from all that lack of governing?
Who benefits from a weaker, less effective US government?
The manager of the hotel (or, “Stable Mighty Emperor Genius Maganificent Adiposity*” as he prefers to be called) called Kevin on his private, “Master Only Line.”
“Kevin? What the hell’s wrong with you?”
“Well, I … “
“Get down here. Now! I have a pipe I need you to unclog!”
“Are you serious? I’m in the fight of my political life here! And, anyway, I don’t know plumbing.”
“Get down here. Or, you’ll never get my endorsement again. Come clean my pipes and I’ll make sure you get the position you deserve.”
“I don’t know how to clean pipes!”
“Get down here. I’ll show you everything you need to know.”
A few hours later, at taxpayer’s expense, Kevin arrived and was ushered into SMEGMA’s anteroom to wait. After a few hours without any communication, a scantily clad model ushered Kevin into SMEGMA’s office which stank of rotting, overcooked Brussel sprouts, slug slime, and limburger cheese gone bad.
Kevin began extending his hand, but the odor nearly knocked him down. He jerked his hand back reflexively. He reeled from the Putrid smell and steadied himself by putting his hand on a nearby table. Unfortunately, it rested ever so briefly on a plate of cold catsup-covered French fries. The hand that was supposed to steady him instead slid violently off the table causing him to twist as he fell through the air and smacked hard into the rug. The thought flashed through his mind: “Thank God he’s got really large piles.” (Unlike his iPhone, Kevin’s brain had no autocorrect.)
One of the hard metal legs of an ergonomic chair nearly hit his skull. Kevin cried out in fear, pain, and outrage. The fall and twist and pain combined to disorient Kevin. The laugh disoriented him even more. “Whose (Unlike his iPhone, Kevin’s brain had no autocorrect.)
laughing? Why? I nearly broke my arm — and my head. And what is that smell?”
“That was great, Kevy. Do it again!”
“Do what again? Are you serious? I damn near killed myself!”
“So what? It gave me pleasure. Well, never mind. The moment is at lapsed.” (This brain was missing more than a spell-check app!).
“Look, Master, I have a fight to get back to. Can you just tell me where the pipes are you need cleaned. And, what is that smell?!”
“Just like everyone else who’se everyone held office held, I may have had people flush classified documents down the toilet. It’s the most beautiful golden toilet in the world, by the way, the universe, the galaxy, even the whole solar system!”
“Fine. Where are your tools?”
“Tools? Don’t you know? All you fools are my tools! You’re cleaning my pipes with your body. Some send me their rent money. Oh, it does make me laugh. Now, get in there and clean. And, I’ll just might make sure your Talker of the House.”
“It’s actually called…never mind. You want me to dive into the toilet in order to clean it? I mean, couldn’t I drown?”
“It doesn’t matter dear, so long as I am satisfied.”
Needless to say, (or is it needless?) Kevin never got what he was promised, no matter how clean he got the toilets.