Wednesday, July 6, 2022 Jul 6, 2022
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Bad actors, farewell: ringing down the curtain on 1986
By Chris Tucker |

I can hear the giggles now, and I want them stopped. Yeah, sure, some people-okay, most people-made their New Year’s resolutions weeks ago. So it would seem that my first resolution should be to stop procrastinating and at least get my resolutions made on time. But I’m getting better: last year, I didn’t make any resolutions until mid-March, and by then, I’d lost my running start on the year and simply decided to chuck the whole business until ’87. (Filled as I am with the zeal of renewal, far be it from me to ask how many of those who penned their recipes for better living on New Year’s Day could even find the list right now, much less hew to those new ideas. So let’s can the chuckles.)

Besides, I’ve got another excuse for putting off that painful rebirth that conies with discarding comfortable bad habits. Putting resolutions down on paper greatly increases the “Did I say that?” factor. So this year, I’ve decided to cut my losses, guard my flanks, and issue nothing but I-shall-not resolutions, on the grounds that it’s much easier to refrain from doing things than to gut it up and actually do something. Let no one think this is mere laziness, however. As you’ll see, I’m giving up some dear pleasures along with some bad habits thai clutter the mind and drain the energy. For example:

I will stop doing Rathermatics-i.e., figuring out how many first-year teachers, nurses, and cancer researchers could be paid out of Dan Rather’s $3,000,000 salary. Kenneth, what is the frequency?

I will try to stop gnashing my teeth when someone tosses out the cliché of the month, phrases like “he’s no rocket scientist” or “the biological clock is ticking.” Likewise when someone makes a needless verb out of a perfectly good noun, as was the fate of “parent” and “impact.” (Will we next be told that we don’t know how to “sibling”?) And I will stifle all but one groan of disgust when words like “terrorism” are wrenched from their proper context and used to pump up interest in the user’s pet cause, as when a politician labels a bill he opposes as “ceo nomic terrorism” or a feminist writer de nounces “sexual terrorism on the job.” A word stretched to mean everything soon means nothing.

I will not join the growing crowd of those who expect to see President Reagan dragged down in Iranamok, Gippergafte, or whatever it’s called this month. First, nobody who has watched the Reagan style develop over the past six years could really believe that the adventurers in the White House basement would bother to let him in on their doings. Why should they? The Great Delegator long ago made it clear that he is no detail man. Probably the most he is guilty of is lax supervision, perhaps deliberately lax in the case of the Iran arms deal. But if the American people wanted a president who reveled in the minutiae of hands-on management, they would have kept Jimmy Carter. Second, and more important, the seeds sown by Nixon and Agnew have grown into a protective thicket around the White House. After years of being told that Bad Press is the root of all evil, a large segment of the public believes that when Sam Donaldson says there’s smoke, he’s got an empty gasoline can in his car. The best defense for beleaguered presidents is now an attack on the press. By April, Iranaround will be a forgotten dip inthe opinion polls.

Speaking of polls, I vow to sprinkle some large grains of SALT before digesting the efforts of Gallup, Roper, and other polling organizations to test the shallow waters of American opinion. Read past the headlines that shout “Majority believe U.S. should stick to SALT II limits,” and you’re likely to find that a majority of that majority are unsure of the major provisions of the treaty they want to stick to. Polls on the question of aid to the Contras often reveal that large numbers of respondents aren’t too sure which side Reagan backs, and why.

I will spend no more than a half hour per week tuning in to hear raving radio evangelists excoriate cabbage patch dolls, numbskull rock groups, and liberal politicians as the instruments of Satan. If Lucifer is reduced to using Ozzy Osbourne and Walter Mondale as his shock troops, maybe we should have some sympathy for the devil.

I will keep my “I told you so’s” to an absolute minimum when the state legislature passes, and the governor signs, the inevitable tax increase.

I will lose no more sleep trying to figure out the lunacies of college hazing rituals. Each year scores of students are humiliated, and dozens are injured, in hazing incidents. Occasionally someone is killed, as happened recently at the University of Texas at Austin. College presidents around the country could have stopped this nonsense long ago by slapping an absolute ban on hazing and kicking renegade chapters off Campus, but they lack the guts. Parents continue to support the schools and beam when their kids pledge a fraternity. Well, perhaps a young man’s death now and then is a small price to pay for the privilege of getting a ring or learning a nifty secret handshake. And the frat house no doubt helps prevent solitude, which, if unchecked, can lead to prolonged thought and might even cause students to take their studies seriously.

I will stop worrying that the world will run oui of mountebanks, loons, and suckers, and thus become a dull gray place. Recent proof of the inexhaustibility of dumb ideas comes from something called Triple I Poll of Hollywood, which poses this question: if you could choose someone’s picture to be placed with yours in a time capsule for the next 6,000 years, whose would it be? You may choose your capsule-mate from 149 names including Larry Bird, Porky Pig, Boy George, Ross Perot, Jesus, Cary Grant, and Don Johnson. You are also invited to speculate as to what historians of the future might think of your choices.

Well, that does boggle the mind. Imagine gaining a cheap form of immortality by shar ing the centuries with a Boston Celtic or a cartoon pig. The splendors and follies of the 20th century lie moklering in the history books, but you live on, you and Porky. What a prospect for the year 7987. But meanwhile, we’ve got a year of our own to tackle, so good luck. That’s all, folks.

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