Pygmalion Red-ux 

And how Ken Burns saved Cope's soul

"So ... Cope ..., you ... been ... sound-eeng ... ver-ee ... dee-pressed ... in ... your ... colll ... ummms ... these ... dayzzz."

"I was depressed, Red, definitely. Disgusted, dispirited, dissatisfied, disgruntled, demoralized and depressed. And I'm not the only one. That's what happens to liberals when it becomes ultimately clear just how scummy and low Republicans will go when they don't get their way. But I do feel better now, buddy. Ken Burns saved my soul."

(Note: As you see, I took Red back as my Socratic conservative sidekick, but on some pretty stringent conditions. As his enunciation had become a detriment for more and more of my readers, I told him he absolutely had to make his side of our conversations more presentable if he wished to return to the fold. I suggested he start by speaking slower and with great deliberation, which helps re-educate the tongue and lips to the formation of proper syllables. That technique also facilitates a more orderly progression of thoughts and enables a speaker to find real, established words to express himself, rather than making them up out of thin air because the mouth is so feverishly trying to make a point that the brain can't keep up.

(I also suggested he find himself a voice coach, the sort of professional that can train Irish actors to sound like characters in a Tennessee Williams' play, or real Southern actors to sound like Colin Farrell. So Red asked around, found a coach affiliated with one of the local theater groups and has been taking lessons. I am proud of him, he's doing so well. He practices two hours a day in front of a mirror, and I am finding that while his speech becomes more comprehensible, his long-held loopy opinions are moderating. I dare not suggest he is turning into a liberal. But it is definitely noticeable that, as his brain and mouth are increasingly working on the same wavelength, he is becoming more reasonable. On a scale ranging from Glenn Beck up to Paul Krugman, I'd put his current state of development somewhere just below Joe Scarborough.)

"Who?"

"Ken Burns. Red, you need to get your face out of Fox now and then and watch some PBS. You didn't see the big series on the national parks, I suppose."

"Nnno."

"You shoulda. It was stunning, I tell you. And I don't just mean because it was full of pretty pictures. In film after film, Ken Burns has documented how interwoven everything about America is with everything else. Hardly matters what he's dealing with ... baseball, race, powerful interests, politics, jazz, the Civil War ... when Burns tells the story, he shows how it's just one vibrant epic operatic evolving tapestry where you can see all the threads and how they tie together and where they might eventually lead. And this last one on the national park system ... brother, it really showed me something. I probably knew it at one time, but we tend to forget the basic stuff when things look terrible, know what I mean?"

"Nnno."

"Well, buddy, Burns has reminded me that America has always been defined as much by its rapacious assholes as its heroes. Get where I'm coming from? We've always had way more than our fair share of the grabbers and the spoilers, the grasping and the stupid, the ignorant goobers and the manipulating demagogues, the liars, the clowns, the craven shills and the mind-boggling fools. Like, for every John Muir or Teddy Roosevelt or Aldo Leopold, there were a thousand selfish cattle barons and mining magnates, railroad hogs and development hucksters, all trying to stop good, healthy things from happening because their only concern was for their own fortune. Just like today with the health-care issue, right? But in spite of all the money and influence and bluster and fear-mongering and threats and hysteria, slowly but surely we keep getting good, healthy things, don't we? National parks and integration and Social Security and affirmative action for minorities and re-introduced wolves and women's suffrage and Medicare and wildlife refuges and civil rights and PBS and libraries and more safety in the workplace and more tolerance for gays and more and more education all the time. That's really encouraging, don't you think? ... that despite all of the obstacles the swinish horde can pile up, one passionate guy like Muir can move the world. I'd call it the difference between the redemptive power of love and the corruptive power of greed, wouldn't you?

"That'zzz ... not ... "

"Yes m' man, Burns reminded me that things will only look terrible if it's only the terrible people you're looking at. And that's what I've been doing, Red. Letting the most terrible, thoughtless, vile people get me down. But that's what they want, isn't it? To discourage their opposition. To demoralize them and drive them out of the fight? Yet in the end, they die unremembered, and what good people like Muir accomplish lives on and on and on. It's the great liberal wheel of history, Red. It can be slowed, but it can't be stopped."

"All ... I ... have ... t' ... say ... izzz ..."

"Oops! Save it, Red. No more room. New word limit, you know. And slow down there, pal. You're starting to drop your vowels again."

(Note: Coming right along, isn't he? Another few months and I'll have Red talking like Anthony Hopkins, you watch. How far he moves up on the Beck-to-Krugman scale remains to be seen.)

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