A fool’s errands

Published 8:00 am Thursday, March 8, 2018

The very definition of a fool’s errand reminds you it’s a hopeless task or activity, one that is not only pointless but also useless.

In the seemingly surreal world in which we live, several easily come to mind.

1. Attacking Donald Trump

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It doesn’t matter how much time or space national media like CNN, MSNBC, the New York Times, Washington Post, National Review, Wall Street Journal or pundits of all stripes devote to savaging Trump, he has an inexplicable resilience that deflects his unending controversies.  His supporters remain unmoved.

In fact, almost everyone derives more gain from his “unpresidential” conduct, especially tweeting, than if he actually acted like a more somber Barack Obama or Jeb Bush.

Then, too, Trump’s not the real problem with America but only a straw man all can bash, sort of a PR person for an American reality show for the entire world to see.

Trump’s unusual behavior and style assuredly has given the post-Clinton Democratic party a temporary raison d’etre just as the knee-jerk opposition to Barack Obama held Republicans together after the disasters of Bush II.  Moreover, railing against him perhaps is the only thing that permits Bernie Sanders and Nancy Pelosi to pretend they belong to the same party.  Yet at some point Democrats need to stand for more than just protesting Trump.

2.  Blaming the media

In one of history’s endless ironies, Donald Trump has almost single-handedly saved the “mainstream media” just as they were declining a few years ago.  Ratings and profits have soared even as many tell you they no longer watch news channels or follow politics.

Yet they do.  It’s become a dirty secret of American life.  It seems that “fake news” is all the rage.

3.  Culture wars

Over gay rights, feminism, abortion, civil rights, and an imperiled Christianity perhaps are as contrived as the “winners,” usually thought to be “the Left,” and “losers,” “the Right and righteous.”  In a crucial sense, they were never real, just an emotional way to inflame Americans and disguise a lack of substance.

The real winners?  A host of new, god-like leviathans like Facebook, Google, Amazon, Goldman-Sachs, Apple, many larger than any arm of “big government” and who shape culture more than endless appeals to “rights,” whether to life or lifestyle.    

4.  Gun control laws

First, the NRA isn’t the bogeyman nor is Donald Trump.  On any given day or hour, Trump will be for or against some cosmetic change while the NRA marches on, secure in the fact that they’re shielded by the Second Amendment.  Three key players in all this — Paul Ryan, Mitch McConnell, and the Supreme Court — have remained out of the fray, a clear signal that nothing will be done.  All believe they can wait out a few parents and students who don’t vote, even turning some outrage to their advantage by attacking protests themselves, but nothing significant will be done until a challenge to the Second Amendment makes its way to the Supreme Court.  That’s one reason why no legislation that might ignite Court challenges will be forthcoming. No matter how many bodies pile up, gun control perhaps is the most foolish task of all.     

You could add issues like the environment, conservation, racism, education, gerrymandering or attacking corporate greed or “the 1 percent,” but they, too, won’t go far.

Still, never quit trying.

When asked why she tried to feed the poor in Calcutta, a hopeless task since there were so many and increasing, Mother Teresa supposedly replied, “Just because it’s impossible doesn’t mean we shouldn’t try to do it anyway.”

Hopeless causes and fool’s errands endlessly attract us, a romantic Teresian embrace of trying, failing, trying again but failing better each time. 

Now, what’s on your list?

– Milton Ready, Tryon