Some days are just too weird for words…or at least too weird for long sequences of words put together in a linear and grammatically correct fashion. Today would happen to be one of those days, in no small part because there has been a surplus of genuinely bizarre stories this morning that deserve some sort of mention, but aren’t meaty enough to warrant a full length article. And on a day that has seen another tragic shooting in Aurora, CO, along with too many stories about minimizing rape to count, I thought some genuine weirdness was in order:
- The President who lived in a Shack: A recent article in The New York Times1 shone a spotlight on the President of Uruguay, Jose Mujica, who lives in less than presidential splendor. Apparently, the President and his congresswoman wife rejected the notion of living in the traditional Suarez & Reyes Presidential Mansion, choosing instead to live in their own small ramshackle house on the outskirts of Montevideo. President Mujica is very much a man of the people, giving away over 90% of his salary to charities that provide housing for the poor and steadfastly refusing to wear a tie. The man lives on roughly $800 a month, had a net worth of $1,800 when he was elected president in 2010 and drives a 1987 Volkswagon Beetle. President Mujica was a member of a violent guerrilla movement known as El Tupamaros in the 1970s, only to find himself captured by the reactionary government and imprisoned for 14 years. During his imprisonment, Mujica was kept in solitary confinement for a decade and managed to maintain his sanity by—and I’m not making this up—befriending rats and a small frog that were in his cell. The man’s life is like a bizarre mash-up of The Motorcycle Diaries and Castaway.
- Our Father, who art in Congress: According to the Wall Street Journal’s Law Blog2, Indiana state senator Dennis Kruse has introduced a bill that would permit the state’s public schools to mandate that students recite the Lord’s Prayer. The bill states its case by arguing that recitation of the Lord’s Prayer would ensure, “that each student recognize the importance of spiritual development in establishing character and becoming a good citizen.” No word yet on whether a school would be able to help those students recognize the importance of spiritual development through the Muslim practice of Salah or readings from the Bhagavad Gita, but I’m not holding my breath. The bill says that children who are opposed to reciting the Lord’s Prayer may be exempted from participating, but only after stipulating that such children will be subject to the traditional Indiana shaming ritual in which the student is forced to sing the song “Gary, Indiana” from The Music Man at a life-size cardboard cutout of Larry Bird.
- Bill O’Reilly, Charles Krauthammer & Greg Gutfield walk into a bar: It would seem that in his old age and dotage, Fox News’ Bill O’Reilly has traded in some of his usual vitriol and disgust for some good old-fashioned curmudgeonly racism. In a recent episode of The O’Reilly Factor3, Uncle Bill began reflecting (again) on the demographic shift in the American electorate, specifically in the picturesque state of Hawaii. After noting that 35% of Hawaiians are Asian American, O’Reilly expressed disbelief at the group’s tendency to vote Democratic, saying that “Asian people are not liberal…by nature,” going on to describe them as “usually more industrious and hard working.” O’Reilly appeared to view Asian Americans as being the Benedict Arnolds of the race war, doing everything to stereotype them but lauding their innate math skills and referring to them as Orientals.
Not to be outdone, regular Fox contributor and owner of the most unfortunate last name in punditry, Charles Krauthammer, decided to frame the recent negotiations on relief for the victims of Hurricane Sandy in terms befitting his brand of nuanced and insightful commentary. On Fox News’ Special Report with Bret Baier4, Krauthammer told viewers that he believed the original, $60 billion relief bill brought before Congress was full of “pork” and praised Speaker of the House Boehner for stopping what he termed, “a rape of the treasury.” Bizarre visuals aside, let me say for the record that it is never a good idea to describe any event as “the rape of something,” unless the event in question is, well, a rape. At a time when sexual violence against women is garnering media attention and public outrage from New Delhi, India to Steubenville, Ohio, maybe it’s not the best idea to equate a bill providing relief for hurricane victims with rape?
- But, the most profoundly ignorant comment of the week comes from new kid on the block and former 80’s romantic comedy douchey sidekick, Greg Gutfeld. On Fox News’ The Five5, which may well be the dumbest hour in all of television, the topic of conversation turned to the makeup of the 113th Congress, which, while still predominantly male, has more female members than any congress in US history. The discussion quickly devolved into a primer on gender stereotypes in America, with Greg Gutfeld leading the charge of guys on the set who found it preposterous that women should think that they can be more effective legislators than men. In between bouts of ham-fisted laughter, Gutfeld managed to voice his opinion on the gender disparity in Washington, asking the panel, “Do you want your government run by the view?” Sadly for humanity, Dana Perino did not lunge across the studio and put Gutfeld into a figure-four leg-lock while reminding him that she was the fucking press secretary for the President of the United States, but one can dream. Stay classy, Fox News.