The Asshole's Retort
I think there should be a psychological syndrome right up there with Tourette's officially recognized and defined by the AMA calling attention to that smug comeback: "It is what it is?"
I don't want to get all schmaltzy here, but I'm going to have to use a quote:
There are those who look at things the way they are, and ask why . . . I dream of things that never were, and ask why not? - Bobby Kennedy
If you're my age and not a nutcase, far-right Republican, that quote gives you the shivers. Depending on your point of view, it either signals the beginning a great movement, or the first warning sign of the emerging welfare state. In Kennedy's time, the sad complacency of The Asshole's Retort, wasn't even a consideration. Notice Kennedy did not say "There are those that look at things the way they are and say 'it is what it is.'"
I think the quote and my addition pretty much sum up a basic difference between the liberal and conservative world view. In the (many) arguments I've had with my right wing friends, the issue has almost always come down to Federalism vs. Anti-federalism, Hamilton vs. Jefferson. You know, the whole idea that the federal government has no right trying to make blanket decisions that effect everyone. The State vs. the Individual. Communism vs. Individualism.
My mother serves as a case in point. Like everyone my age (I guess--I hope it's not just me), I have Mother-Issues. She was beautiful, witty, twinkly-eyed, courageous, and certainly destined for sainthood. She was an autodidact and like most autodidacts I've known, had a hard time admitting she was wrong. As a teacher, I am ashamed to remember the number of times she blamed school for my laziness.
The main thing about my mom was that she was an Illinois Catholic Liberal born and bred. She wore her heart on her sleeve and could always be counted on to shed a tear or two over anyone in need. Just like she was witty and happy and warm, she was just as frequently outraged. I'm just sad she didn't remain cogent long enough to watch THE DAILY SHOW.
Her liberal side was most on display when in the company of my first wife's parents, rich, genuinely thoughtful and friendly people, and CONSERVATIVE. Mom actually told them she thought it wrong for people to have as much as they when there were folks who had nothing! She couldn't understand how we could all sit by while people were starving in Africa, etc., etc. My first set of in-laws basically rolled their eyes, shook their heads, and marveled at her naiveté. I, nineteen at the time, rolled my eyes and shook my head right along with them.
The same thing happened with Katherine's parents, also lovely people, fun to be with, and CONSERVATIVE. She would explain how Reagan (her first cousin once removed) was a terrible president because he put his mother, Nellie, in a nursing home and never went to see her. Sometimes after a particularly nice get together with plenty of liquor and food, her eyes would tear up over the thought of all those people who had nothing. I'm telling you, it got old after awhile.
She used to embarrass me when she got like that. But here's the thing. She was right. The rest of us were as wrong as we could be. We live in a world that produces enough food to overfeed everyone in the world, but we somehow still allow starvation. It is what it is.
We live in a country in possession of enough wealth and wisdom to insure universal health care, free day care, free pre-schools, improved roads, etc., etc. Instead, we elect people who are more protective of their ideology than their constituency. It is what it is.
And in order to make sure that what it is stays exactly the same, we act tough. We dig in our heels. We go bomb somebody. And we worship the NFL. The three holiest days of the week are Monday, Thursday, and Sunday. In the football supplement to The Post at the beginning of the season, there was a slick magazine insert focusing in on the toughness of the Broncos. It seems it was lack of toughness (we all know it couldn't have been talent) that made us lose the Superbowl. The magazine was sickening. It just showed photos of the starting Broncos acting tough. There was Payton Manning, muscles tense, strained fingers on the ball, looking dangerous and ready to beat the shit out of someone.
Wasn't it amazing when the whole city rejoiced (at least the football nuts) when Manning ran down to the end zone and got in that DB's face and told him to "fuck himself."? Wow! What a guy. It makes you proud just to have witnessed the whole thing. And the awful thing was that I was right there with them. I would have given Manning a fist bump if I had been on the field. It is what it is.
Of course, when something like Ray Rice pummeling his soon-to-be wife splashes all over the crawls at the bottom of the TV screen, we become outraged and spend the next weeks (at least it seems that long) analyzing it, agreeing or disagreeing with the outcome, subjecting that poor, battered woman to the leering comments of Rush Limbaugh or Sean Hannity or the blonde bimbos on Fox. This will dominate the news until the next inevitable school shooting and the ensuing debate.
But, hey. It is what it is.