I’m starting to do podcast interviews and other talks about An Effort to Understand, and I can’t believe what I hear coming out of mouth. I’ve never been the guy calling for peace and consideration, for even the people we find most obnoxious.
At my most grandiose, I’ve thought of myself as an afflicter of the comfortable rather than a comforter of the afflicted. Somebody asked me when he heard about my book, “Who are the bad guys in your book?” I said we are. But I said the good news was, we were also the good guys, too.
With apologies to the Wizard of Oz, what the fuck kind of a clinking, clanking, clattering collection of caliginous sanctimony is that?
And how did I become the peace and love guy?
Well, John Lennon isn’t here, so somebody has to be. And I’m better at it than a lot of others, precisely because I’ve always thought of smarm as social skin cancer, and believe banality bores and numbs us into embracing evil just to break the monotony.
Why does somebody have to be?
A functional family is not a family in which every member is always sane. It is one where all the members don’t go crazy at the same time. They take turns.
Same is true of a church board, a shipping and receiving department or the federal government.
And same is true of a society itself.
And it’s always especially true in a time of grief. In a time of grief, someone in the family is always going crazy. Sometimes two or three members are going crazy at once. But somebody has to hold it together. Make the coffee. Listen to the wailing. Draw the line at breaking furniture. Build a prevailing coalition of cooler heads. And above all, do nothing to make matters worse.
That shouldn’t be any one person every time, because that’s a sickness all its own. Even Andy Griffith messed up in a few of the episodes. And Opie or Aunt Bee was always there to set him straight.
“Everybody’s crazy but you and me,” a friend’s dad used to tell him when he was little. “And I’m starting to worry about you.”