Peter Shelton

Promises, Promises

Posted in Watch columns by pshelton on December 30, 2010

I resolve that in 2011 I will not yell at deer.

They don’t seem to really care. Say there are a couple of does on the lawn. They’re snacking on the last green blades of the season and streaming their ungulate sign steaming into the snow. It’s not the melted snow I mind, it’s the brown circles burned into the grass come spring – like bald monk’s pates – dead patches that don’t grow in until another year has passed.

I yell, and what do they do? Nothing. They prick up their huge, fuzzy ears and look at me as if they hadn’t noticed the house sitting there. As if they’d briefly considered this hairless, two-legged thing with no ears to speak of, and dismissed it in a single chewing motion. As if I were a liberal, and they were Rush Limbaugh in a good mood.

By the same token, I should resolve not to yell at anything over which I have no control: Rush Limbaugh, Sarah Palin, gnats, the fact that it’s snowing over there, but not over here.

I resolve not to yell at the radio. At home it’s certainly safer than on the highway. Yelling at the radio in the car is surely just as distracting as talking on a cell phone. Probably worse.

But what are you supposed to do when Neal Conan says on Talk of the Nation that NPR is right to refer to waterboarding, very consciously, not as torture but as an enhanced interrogation technique? He says this is because there are opposing viewpoints out there, which NPR must respect. And I want to scream and reach through the dial and throttle him the way I would those deer if I could catch them.

Then there is the way the radio drones on about President Obama and his failure to make good on hope, or change. I’m as frustrated as the next guy who voted for the promise and sees instead capitulation over taxing the super-rich and the abandonment, before the beginning, of a health-care public option.

But I’m pretty sure the Tea Party hornets nest has been stirred up precisely because Mr. Obama has succeeded in proving wrong the idea that America’s very scary moment in history has not come about because he was born in Kenya, or that he wants to loose the homos on the United States Marine Corps.

He’s done a pretty good job actually, in his strangely uninspiring way, of backing the ship of state off the shoals that George W. Bush blithely steered us onto.

Speaking of which, I resolve not to yell at the picture of Shrub on the cover of AARP the magazine. I don’t have to because my dear wife, anticipating the likelihood, ripped the cover off that issue and trashed it before I could get a look at his smug mug. I like thinking of the Obamas in Hawaii right now sitting on the beach getting some well-deserved rest, taking a little credit perhaps for the remarkable flurry of action by the lame-duck Congress. And I can’t help but think of Bar and Pappy Bush (Mrs. And Mr. 41) sitting on a beach in Houston sighing with relief as they realize that their idiot son (43) did not in fact completely destroy America’s place in the world, its moral and economic leadership. He did his best, Lord knows, for greed and meanness and corporate personhood, but by golly, I guess that just wasn’t enough. The forces of progress (and that damn Kanye West) prevailed.

Finally, I guess I should resolve not to yell at myself. I may be a bleeping idiot for leaving the laptop out in the car on a 12-degree overnight. And I may have forgotten the really cool ending I was going to use for this column because I was certain, absolutely sure, as I was falling asleep last night that I didn’t need to get up out of the warm covers and write the idea down – I’d remember it in the morning, no problem. And then, of course . . . well, I don’t have to tell you what became of that brilliant idea.

But it’s a new year, a new beginning. I should cut myself, and the deer, some slack.

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