FALLLLLLLLLLLLLING

Posted in Quick Hits on October 1st, 2013 by Ed

Many years ago I read a study of people who had survived falls from great heights – including a WWII paratrooper who fell 22,000 feet with no parachute – and I was struck by the nearly universal reports of a calm, serene feeling while it was happening. There comes a point at which you become so thoroughly screwed that your body and brain team up to decide that there is no point in freaking out about it. You'd likely be panicked if you had to jump out of a third-story window or if you fell down a long flight of stairs, but when falling from 22,000 feet it isn't even worth it to scream or be scared. I'd have to imagine, as the survivors reported, that the most likely response would be along the lines of "Well I guess this is it."

On a smaller scale we all experience the same phenomenon. We routinely get bent out of shape about matters that are trivial at best, yet when we are faced with an actual serious problem – even insurmountable ones against which we can do nothing – we do a better job of taking it in stride. I have a friend who was evicted from his house in 2010 when it was foreclosed; I recall speaking to him a few days beforehand and asking him what he was going to do. "Well, the bank's going to take the house and I guess I'll stay somewhere else." It blew my mind. Objectively, that's a great way to handle it.

Watching – at least to the extent that I can stomach watching this – John Boehner during this congressional kabuki theater makes me feel like I'm seeing the same thing in the beleaguered speaker. I don't feel bad for him; when you sign up to be the captain of the U.S.S. Batshit you get what you deserve. But man does he look calm for a guy who is totally powerless to stop this trainwreck. He can't control the House GOP any more than he can control the weather, and he knows it. He's just…placid. Here is an orange-skinned man who no longer knows fear. He knows how screwed he is and at this point he looks like he's considering getting hammered on Wild Turkey and riding the wave until it's over. He's pushing for a six week continuing resolution with the apparent hope that he'll come up with an idea in that time or fake his own death.

However this is resolved – the usual last minute "compromise", a temporary shutdown, or a protracted battle – the common thread is that Boehner is a passenger in the process. He knows he is supposed to be in control, and nominally he is. He may not be a rocket scientist but he is smart enough to realize that the laws of physics have taken over and he's along for the ride. If I'm ever as screwed as he is at this moment, I hope I can experience the same kind of serenity. Godspeed, Mr. Speaker.