It’s funny how certain things stick in your mind. Before Powerpuff Girls stickers, bath mats, T-shirts, wristwatches, PJs, Gameboys, backpacks, books…—before the vast economic potential of product tie-ins were more than a gleam in Hollywood’s eye—Saturday morning kids’ TV was an unvarying stream of cartoon shorts first shown in the interstices of the Saturday matinee at the local movie palace. Some were very old even when I was young. Then as now, they contained hidden adult references: cats and birds impersonating public figures of the thirties and forties, allusions to long-gone popular songs and starlets. My memories of these are in black and white—because our TV was black and white, or the cartoons predated color films? I don’t know.
I woke up this morning at 3 a.m. with one of these cartoons playing in my mind. A droopy, elegant figure (is it a bird in an evening gown? I think so) drags herself from left to right and back again, lugubrious eyes cast down, repeating this: “I’m tired, so tired, I’m so, so tired.” The accent is vaguely European. Is it Garbo? Some now-forgotten chanteuse? I remember thinking half a century ago, my eyes glued to the small screen, that something was supposed to be funny about this, but I couldn’t see what.
In the middle of the night, of course, it was me. I lay on my back, staring at moon shadows on the ceiling, thinking how fatiguing it is to live in a climate of lies. I couldn’t bear to watch the State of the Union, but I made myself read every word of the transcript, my eyes growing heavier with each line. By the time I reached the end, I was practically comatose.
There’s not much shock in this, of course. You know the old joke? Q: How do you tell if a politician is lying? A: His mouth is moving. But today I find myself agreeing with Lily Tomlin’s quip: “No matter how cynical you get, you can’t keep up.”
The antidote to an overdose of lies is a bracing measure to truth. A friend sent me the link to this great column by Molly Ivins, speaking plainly to the Democrats. As Ivins writes, “There are times a country is so tired of bull that only the truth can provide relief.” Forward it, please.
I’m feeling a little more awake already.