Elisabeth Kübler-Ross, author of On Death and Dying and all-around fun-time party-girl, wrote that after someone kicks, the survivors experience five stages of grief: denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and acceptance. (I’m not sure where overeating, sex with park statues, and random fits of homicidal mania fit in. I just know they do.) Actually, though, the schema’s not just for death anymore: you can apply it to just about any traumatic loss, so, though no one’s died in my family, I am, like so many of you, on depression, the jolliest of the phases, in the not-jolly sense of jolly.
I mean, many of the other stages are at least somewhat enjoyable. Denial is awesome: la de da, I can’t hear you, nothing’s wrong, shut UP! I’d like to spend my whole life in denial. I want to build a house in denial and have all my imaginary friends come live with me in it. Anger…well, as anyone who’s read one of my rage-filled spittle-spewing rants, or has juststood in line ahead of me at the supermarket well knows, I’m good with anger. One might even call it my métier, but then I wouldn’t understand you, because of how I’m an American and don’t understand foreign languages or subtlety. Bargaining rocks too; you’d be amazed how much I saved on bedroom furniture after my Aunt Agnes tried to run with the bulls in Pamplona. (Her last words: “Oh look, someone dropped a peseta.”) (I didn’t eat beef for a week after that.) And, in theory, the process ultimately leads to acceptance, which is, I suppose,a goodthing, but I do want to know: must I accept everything? Personally, I’d like to be a little more selective. Also, I don’t accept loss, especially death, easily, hence my extensive database of contact information for zombie witch doctors.
Depression, though, sucks. It sucks the life out of you; it sucks the energy from your body and the thoughts from your brain, so you move and think as if swimming through molasses. (I was on the molasses-swim-team in high school; we went to the state championship.) (In a bus followed by a gigantic swarm of flies.) I cannot watch the news anymore, not even The Daily Show. I can’t stand to hear about one more stupid nightmare outrage in this idiocratic banana republic the United States of A has become—and not the good kind of banana republic, where they have those stretchy black t-shirts that I love so well.
The list of enormities boggles even the most cynical imagination. Tax the poor? (The poor? Really? How likely are the poor to pay off the national debt? Because, and see if you can follow my logic here, the poor don’t have any fucking money. I mean, they’re great people, the poor. Give you the shirts off their backs. And that’s all the IRS will get from them, because of how as I might have mentioned, the poor don’t have any fucking money. As opposed to the rich, who have all the fucking money.) Default on the national debt? Suggest we lynch Ben Bernanke for doing what a Fed Chairman is supposed to do? Allow guns in bars—and schools? (And people wonder why there’s grade inflation. “A+! You get an A+, crazy gun-wielding psycho!”) Any random sentence that spews out of Michele “I’m Crazy And a Congressperson! Ask Me How!” Bachmann?
(I can’t resist; they’re like crack: “And what a bizarre time we’re in, when a judge will say to little children that you can’t say the pledge of allegiance, but you must learn that homosexuality is normal and you should try it.” So that’s what happened to my daughters.)
This all used to incite me to rage, as it should, as it should any thinking person and quite a few in persistent vegetative states and maybe even a couple of your more excitable sandwiches and snack foods. Now? Meh. It’s all just become too much to worry about. It’s like how after you’ve fallen onto the highway dead drunk and someone’s run you down, the second and third and fourth cars that run you over just seem like something you have to resign yourself to. (Don’t ask me how I know that. Or why my nickname is Asphalt. Or perhaps Ass-Fault. I’ve had a little hearing deficit ever since.) Your reaction: ah, shit. Not again.
I don’t know if it’s just me or if everyone in the country feels like this, and if that’s why this insane shit continues. I mean, when all you can do is go to work—if you still have a job, which almost 50 of us still do (drinks after work on Friday!)—and maybe stir yourself just enough to pistol-whip your child or perhaps someone else’s (in my defense, kids are very annoying, and guns are plentiful), you’re not going to care that Goldman Sachs’s representatives in Congress and the White House make no sense. You’re not going to care that Barack Obama has kept almost none of his election promises—and is still an infinitely better choice than anyone the Republicans have or can field as a candidate. (Years ago in Louisiana, when David Duke, a neo-Nazi and KKK Grand Wizard, ran against a convicted felon named Edwin Edwards, bumper stickers read, “Vote For the Crook. It’s Important.” I know how those voters felt. Also, I too love Cajun food and zydeco.) If the ‘70s was, as Tom Wolfe called it, “The Me Decade,” the ‘Teens is the Meh Decade.
Maybe this is acceptance, the culmination of the mourning process, not depression. We’re mourning the country that we used to be and accepting what we’ve become. Remember when it seemed like people started every goddamn sentence with “If we can put a man on the moon…”? People don’t say that much anymore, because of how we can’t put a man on the moon. We have to pay the Russians—the motherfucking Russkies, whose Slavic dog-orbiting asses we kicked in the space race in the ‘60s—$70 million per astronaut to let us tag along on their space flights, because of how we can no longer fly even our boring-ass-except-when-exploding deathtrap shuttles. In the last decade, we traded freedom for a spurious security (thank god we can’t bring a full-size shampoo bottle on a plane anymore; how did we ever think that shit was safe?), prosperity for a six-year binge of McMansions and exotic derivatives and our jobs for bullshit demonizing of gays, Muslims, poor people, as usual blacks and don’t worry, Jews, we’ll be getting around to you, too—as you know, we always do. If this is acceptance, or even depression, can we go back to anger, please? In fact, just thinking about all this, I’m feeling a bit of an anger-burn starting…
Nope. Just gas.