Even If We Survive the So-Called 'Fiscal Cliff', There Are More Cliffs Coming

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THE end of the world never comes at a convenient time.

It never comes, for instance, when you're sitting in front of a blank computer screen trying to think of a column.
But the end is nigh, according to ancient Mayans and Washington mandarins.

We have reached the quivering moment of truth that Jon Stewart calls "Cliffpocalypsemageddonacaust."

However the Mayan prediction and the fiscal cliff work out in the next few days, I hope we are talking about the end of talking about the end.

It's tedious to always be suspended in midair, like Wile E. Coyote or Thelma and Louise. The attempts by some to continually whirl the whole American population into a state of apocalyptic excitement are exhausting.

We have enough real cliffhangers -- Will Carrie and Brody descend into craziness together or go to a movie and chill, going zero dark flirty at "Zero Dark Thirty"? Will RGIII's knee buckle against Cleveland on Sunday? -- without creating fake ones.

There's a new American trend in hysteria. Everything now is in italics, punctuated by exclamation points!!! As entertaining as Carrie Mathison's bouts of hysteria have been in "Homeland," stirring up hysteria in real life, whether to draw clicks, eyeballs or votes, is not a good idea.

Cliff dwellers in our society may think that facing the guillotine focuses the mind. But the cliff metaphor is so overused it makes me want to walk off one. Don't even mention Cliff Clavin, Cliff Huxtable, Cliff Robertson, Jimmy Cliff or Heathcliff (either on the moors, in Cliffs Notes or in the funny papers.)

If your Christmas presents don't come from Amazon in time, you're going over the gift cliff. If your boyfriend bails, you're going over the romance cliff. If he comes back, you could be going over the marriage cliff.

Journalists now have to add an extra coup de grĂ¢ce ("Fiscal cliff crash") or double metaphor ("Clock is ticking for fiscal cliff") or raffish cartoons to juice things up. The new cover of The Economist features Uncle Sam, waving a Jack Daniels bottle, with the Statue of Liberty, wearing cool shades and smoking a doobie, plunging into the Grand Canyon in a red, white and blue Thunderbird with the license plate "Debt 1."

Other metaphors have been suggested: "fiscal obstacle course," "debt bomb," "austerity bomb." But we're stuck in the year of cliffian thinking.

There are cliffians, who predict dire consequences if a deal is not reached, and anti-cliffians. But no matter if you're into Keynes, Krugmania or Ayn Ryanism, looking at things as a cliff is not the most constructive way to live. It's sheer madness. Apocalypse is a very bad place in which to think clearly about anything.


Source: The New York Times | Maureen Dowd
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