Out of the Blue: Trying to make sense of the news
May 25, 2017
In trying to reduce the enraged mania that flickers to life every time I catch a news-show ticker crawl or a newspaper headline, I have decided to take a page out of the "Close Encounters of the Third Kind" playbook.
In that astoundingly good 1977 Steven Spielberg film, our protagonist, played by Richard Dreyfuss, has an encounter with a UFO and it drives him — at least for a while — completely insane.
After stopping at a railroad crossing on an empty country road during a power outage, Dreyfuss thinks he's waving the truck behind him to pass, but instead a spacecraft rises into the sky and hovers above the guy's vehicle, sending concentrated light beams and disorienting magnetic waves down upon him.
After this, he tries to explain to his family what he experienced, but to them, he sounds like a raving lunatic, an overworked father who needs a good night's rest.
Dreyfuss keeps seeing a shape in his mind, though, one he remembers from his encounter that he replicates in piles of shaving cream, mashed potatoes, and eventually (to his wife's horror) plants and dirt and shrubbery from the backyard that he transports into the living room to sculpt with. On the verge of a mental breakdown, she begs him to communicate what has inspired in him whatever strain of crazy that has clearly taken over.
All he can come up with is: "Dammit, I know this. I know what this is! This means something. This is important."
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I look at the piles of media information around me and am convinced that there's logic at hand, that one news flash begets another with historically identifiable rationale: at some point in the future, I feel like it will all make sense. As Dreyfuss said, it will mean something. It will be important.
Alas, I don't see this happening any time soon.
As of Monday, May 22, Michael Flynn, our disgraced onetime National Security Advisor, has rejected a subpoena from the senate about his role in working with the Russians during the 2016 presidential election. Contemplating this as a straightforward act that has precedent and verifiable implications should place it into the timeline of Donald J. Trump's time in office in a coherent fashion.
But I worry that, like every other curveball hiccup the DJT White House has sent our way in the last few months, it will either be ignored after a week or two, fall into an administrative black hole and just linger in political limbo, or (scariest of all) become shadowed by a bigger, more grotesque abuse of power from someone on Team Trump.
I honestly feel like I have no ability to make a clear assessment of what's happening in 2017 American politics due to the doglegs and sudden U-turns these elected officials of ours keep sending our way. Yes, it certainly sounds like the Worst Supporting Razzie Winner (Ghosts Can't Do It – 1990) tried to obstruct justice by telling now-ousted FBI director James Comey to let "that whole Russia thing" go, but so what? What does that mean in real-time presidential political currency?
A bunch of Democrats out there are sporting increasingly sly secret smiles, sensing that Prima Donald is on a direct path to inevitable impeachment from a myriad of situations, lawsuits, and results of poor decision-making. But laying down the tracks for that particular train route would involve a sober, focused judgment and logic, which both waved bye-bye to the Trump administration before it even came to be.
If last week involved a public DJT trash-talking regarding Rosie O'Donnell, the reveal that our president leaked classified information to Russian ambassadors in the Oval Office, and that Michael Flynn plead the fifth (likely bringing about legal charges against him), what on earth does this week or next week hold? A steady-as-she-goes break from the drama would be nice, but considering the instincts of our cable news ratings-obsessed chairman of the board, I doubt that's in the cards.
I can only try to actively make sure my blood pressure stays down when we hear a news story comes my way and hope that in the future, hindsight will put a context to all these batty developments and a narrative pattern will form.
Like Richard Dreyfuss in Close Encounters of the Third Kind, I might have to stare at mounds of mashed potatoes and build mountains in my living room for the time being, but perhaps it will pay off.
I really do believe that the news of our time means something. I just wish I knew what that was.
Mike Restaino is a writer and filmmaker based out of Incline Village. He is also a founding member of the North Tahoe Democrats. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.