We’re Better Than This

After last November’s election, I sat in shock for some time. After the shock wore off and I could start to think again, I puzzled over the results. I believe in our democracy, in that when we vote, the tallies are accurate. The man in the white house received the majority of electoral votes. “How could this have happened,” I asked myself. “We’re better than this.”

Then it came to me.. we are NOT better than this. This is what we are. There is nothing and no one to blame. This is how we voted, and for 4 years or until impeachment, this man is our president. Period. I decided I needed to find my solace elsewhere, and I found a slice of it in the work of H. L. Mencken. Mr Mencken died when I was 4 years old, not allowing much of an overlap, but his writing; oh my goodness…

I found his book, “A Mencken Chrestomathy” on Abe Books ™ for a couple of bucks. I brought it with me to the doctor’s office this morning, and cracked chapter 1 while I was waiting for the doctor. I’m guessing it may be a little strange to some, but while I sat alone in the examination room, I laughed loud and long; this on the first few pages of the lengthy tome. Mr. Mencken, you and I are going to get along fine, and I think with your help, I’m going to weather the next few years.

Mencken, in talking about life on planet Earth, pays special attention to his lifelong object of satire, the human species, when he writes, “Of all animals, indeed, he seems the least capable of arriving at accurate judgments in the matters that most desperately affect his welfare. Try to imagine a rat, in the realm of rat ideas, arriving at a notion as violently in contempt of plausibility as the notion, say, of Swedenborgianism, or that of homeopathy, or that of infant damnation, or that of mental telepathy. Man’s natural instinct, in fact, is never toward what is sound and true; it is toward what is specious and false. Let any great nation of modern times be confronted by two conflicting propositions, the one grounded upon the utmost probability and reasonableness and the other upon the most glaring error, and it will almost invariably embrace the latter. It is so in politics, which consists wholly of a succession of unintelligent crazes, many of them so idiotic that they exist only as battle-cries and shibboleths and are not reducible to logical statement at all.” (H. L. Mencken, “A Mencken Chrestomathy”, Alfred A. Knopf, Inc, 1982)

This on page 7 of some 600+ pages of Mencken’s choice of the best of his writing. I think for the next few weeks, I’ll be on the couch with Mr. Mencken. If you happen to be in the next room and hear laughter, don’t worry, it is only me, becoming regrounded.

2 Responses to “We’re Better Than This”

  1. Robert Jones says:

    Shorter than HLM’s but in the same vein: Grace Slick, yes that “Gracie” Slick, commented a few years ago that the reason the Revolution failed is that approximately 90% of all people possess inadequate thinking skills. Perhaps, if our country reaches a crisis point. we might be prompted to think more clearly. I have acquaintances from Oklahoma City; these folks are quite financially well off. They say that since OK has started fracking in earnest, their neighborhood–comprised of very expensive houses–has experienced numerous tremors. They also say that the interior walls of their house now have numerous cracks. Maybe, just maybe, if the State Capitol of Oklahoma sinks a few feet, then….

    • Ted says:

      Ah Gracie. I’ve had a crush on her since I saw her in the Woodstock movie in 1970!

      What bothers me about Gracie’s and HLM’s statements is the built in elitism. I imagine Gracie puts herself in the 10% category, as did HLM. I think we’re all on a path in life, and there is room for improvement in each of our lives. Who am I to say that person A has inadequate thinking skills, and that person B’s are adequate? It’s complicated.

      I think if I had a gold ring with a saying inscribed on the inside that would sustain me in every mood, it would say, “it’s complicated,” 🙂 Ted

Leave a Reply