Hey, can we talk about the weather this week? I don’t mean “global warming,” which people talk about a lot, even though nothing seems to get done about it. I’m sure you, like all of us, are doing everything in your power, in your little bitty way, to prevent the looming calamity of climate change, such as switching your light bulbs and walking to work. But let’s face it -- until the whole screeching, screaming, over-producing, mass-consuming culture of predatory capitalism comes crashing down around us, this planet’s going to keep on heating up. And the best thing I can say about that is that we’ll get to blame the Chinese when we pass the tipping point, because they’re so incredibly irresponsible with their greenhouse gas emissions. I mean, really -- is a booming economy worth that much?
Think about it.
No, when I say I want to talk about the weather, I mean I want to talk about it the way people do when they don’t want to talk about something else. It’s like when they say, “How are you?” And you say, “I’m fine.” And they say, “Me, too.” It doesn’t mean a thing. It’s just a way of talking about nothing, when, in fact, you’ve probably got terrible things going on in your life. Let’s say you’ve just lost your job, or run over a cat, or found your wife in bed with another woman -- your sister, maybe -- and you’d do anything, absolutely anything, to enter that state of “denial” everyone tells you you’re already in if you’re dumb enough to let things get beyond the “How are you?” point.
Well, talking about the weather is the same as saying, “I’m fine,” only better, because people are constantly surprised by the weather. They really are. It doesn’t matter how hot it is, or cold, or wet, or dry. It doesn’t matter how old they are or how many times they’ve seen the sun rise and the rain fall and the snow fly. It’s like sex scandals in Washington -- everyone’s amazed that such a thing could be happening. “Christ, it’s cold!” they’ll say, or “Hot enough for you?” or “Oh, will it ever stop raining?” -- as if it never had. They simply can’t believe it. It’s always news to them. So talking about the weather is the very best thing to avoid talking about something else.
Dick Cheney, for example. Nobody wants to talk about Dick Cheney, and if you talk about the weather instead you’ll never have to do it. You won’t have to talk about Cheney’s response last week to a right-wing radio host in North Dakota, who asked him, in reference to real or imagined “terrorists” in American custody, if he thought “a dunk in water is a no-brainer if it can save lives.” Cheney answered, “Well, it’s a no-brainer for me,” and wow! -- did the winds blow hard after that! Why, things got so bad that Cheney’s protégé, George W. Bush, actually got off his rocking-horse and said, “This country doesn’t torture!” Even though it does and everyone knows it does, and even though Bush has already made it plain that he’s going to keep on torturing anyone he wants, ‘cuz he’s the decider, see, the commander-in-chief, and it’s his job to -- well, you know the rest.
Anyway, Cheney never used the word “waterboarding.” He absolutely did not! That word never came out of Dick Cheney’s mouth! “You know as a matter of common sense that the vice president of the United States is not going to be talking about waterboarding,” said White House spokesman Tony Snow in his effort to contain this particular, um, flood. “Never would, never does, never will. You think Dick Cheney’s going to slip up on something like this? No, come on.”
Right, come on! Dick Cheney only slips up when he has a shotgun in his hand and too much bourbon in his belly down in quail country. No one’s explained what was meant by “a dunk in water,” of course -- “A dunk in water is a dunk in water,” says Snow -- but I suspect it has something to do with tossing Muslims into Guantánamo Bay and seeing if they can swim to Miami without getting eaten by sharks. In hurricane season (you see what I mean about the weather?).
And it isn’t surprising that Cheney won’t talk about waterboarding, because Cheney doesn’t talk about anything that he’s secretly up to. He’s had this written into the Constitution, I think. And Cheney’s wife, Lynn, never wrote a steamy lesbian novel, either -- “No,” she told Wolf Blitzer on CNN, “not necessarily. This description is a lie. I’ll stand on that” -- even though her steamy lesbian novel, Sisters, contains passages like these: “Let us go away together, away from the anger and the imperatives of men. … There will be only the two of us … twin streams merging into a single river." But there aren’t any “obscenities” in it, if you follow, not like those filthy Democrats who write war novels that “demean women.” No, Sir!
So trust me -- the weather’s your best bet if you want to avoid any topic of importance. Congressional elections coming up next week? Who cares -- we’ve had snow in October! Homosexuals stampeding to New Jersey to get married (or whatever)? So what -- it gets dark these days at 4 pm! Iraq and all the Middle East exploding before your eyes? Get a life -- somewhere in the world it’s still hot and humid, even in November. Now that’s obscene.
is the author of international bestselling books including:
Anastasia: The Riddle of Anna Anderson,
Isadora: A Sensational Life, and a biography of the
anti-fascist journalist Dorothy Thompson,
American Cassandra: The Life of Dorothy Thompson.
His essays have appeared in Salon, Vanity Fair, New
York Times Book Review, and many others. Peter lives in
Burlington, Vermont. He can be reached at:
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