Rendered Fat Content


Édouard Manet: Luncheon on the Grass (Le Déjeuner sur l'herbe), 1863
"I trust them about as much as I trust that platter of questionable deviled eggs."

I think of politics as a sort of smoke-filled picnic, a gathering of curious choices within an equally curious context. Hobson's Choices abound. No formal menu informs any individual selection, for these meals depend most prominently upon what a participant might happen upon. Each dish bears the prominent fingerprints of its creator. Old family recipes predominate, with each mother rather proud of her "unique" contribution. Tucked between curious salads and a platter of questionable deviled eggs, the fried chicken looks a whole lot better than it ever actually tastes, the few flies buzzing around little deterrent from partaking. The burgers seem grilled by someone with great enthusiasm and even greater ignorance. The beer's inevitably lukewarm. Billowing clouds of obscuring charcoal smoke hang over the proceedings and the kids rush around like soda pop-fueled maniacs, embarrassing their parents and frustrating the vicar. We generally refer to these gatherings as celebrations of a way of life, though their real reward comes at the end of the day when everyone has successfully tucked away their leftovers and taken their sunburns to bed.

Elections fill me with existential dread, just the way any picnic might.
I contribute what I have, quietly chastising as slackers those who brought store-bought platters covered in over-Pasteurized "cheese" and wilted fruit. A theme always emerges. One might find a center around an ad hoc baseball game; another, huddled around office gossip. I take a seat near the far periphery where the well-meaning might float by to try to entice me to more actively participate, as if I should be dissatisfied with my location. I consider showing up to be a fair contribution. I will have forgotten everybody's name but remember more clearly most people's reputation. I will be re-introduced for the sixth or seventh time to all those faces The Muse interacts with daily. I'm just arm candy, or so I fancy myself.

I'm always disappointed by the choices, considering them accurate representations of others' tastes, but certainly not mine. I'm challenged to choose anyway between clear Walmart progenies and last week's CostCo specials. I always wonder how anyone could live like that before re-realizing that most people do. I'm the odd duck bearing homemade mango (of all things!) salsa which nobody else recognizes. I usually choose not to choose, but to nibble around the edges, as if nibbling might not taint me. I inevitably leave hungry, my delicate system upset by some concoction foreign to my metabolism. I selected from the seemingly least likely upsetting and inevitably choose wrong. I'll eat supper when I return home if I still have any stomach for eating then.

The lesser of apparent evils rules the gathering. I might end up engaging in a satisfying conversation or two, but whatever passion we might exchange seems blunted by the utter superficiality of the gathering. We must have something in common, each having responded to the same invitation, yet few seem in their element there, and those who do seem as though they might not belong anywhere else. We are not really social animals at all, but we keep up appearances lest others come to know just how isolated we each feel. I always support minority positions, praying that they will not become popular. I learned to avoid popularity way back in high school, perhaps the only lesson from then that actually stuck and took root. I take pride in my distance from the center and an arrogant sense of superiority with my alienation from those further right. I think the right absolutely wrong and am still learning to interpret their convictions backwards. They generally mean the opposite of whatever they say, though my meager imagination cannot always conjure up a specific referent to aid my understanding. I trust them about as much as I trust that platter of questionable deviled eggs.

©2020 by David A. Schmaltz - all rights reserved

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