- - Monday, August 21, 2017


Crowds gathered with eager anticipation. There were runs on “eclipse sunglasses,” with 7-Eleven running out early, and Amazon accused of selling sunglasses that weren’t guaranteed to keep out the right rays. Amazon might deliver on the protective gear, so the street wisdom went, but you might go blind.

It’s hard not to think of the eclipse as a metaphor for these unsettled times. Darkness and light, crowds and unmanageable outcomes, calm and chaos have been orbiting the culture since the Charlottesville riots, and actually since November. (Some might call it madness.) But as with many things, the eclipse might best be understood by the way our four-legged friends reacted to it, particularly how they coped with suddenly finding themselves in the dark at the wrong time on the clock.

The Nashville Zoo’s “two young giraffes, 6-month-old Mazi and Nasha, 3, stampeded madly in circles, while some of the nearby rhinos bolted for their pens thinking it was time for bed,” reported the New York Post. “But their keeper said she wasn’t sure whether they were spooked by the eclipse or by the shrieking crowds who’d come to see how they’d react.” Perhaps both.

So it is with current events and all eyes on the president of the United States. Is it really North Korea, the Charlottesville riots, the debt ceiling, the cashiering of Steve Bannon, the latest attack of radical Islam, this time in Barcelona, Navy sailors lost at sea after another ship’s collision? Or is it the twitching body politic waiting to see how Donald Trump reacts, and what he will say?

More often than not, the event that ought to be at center stage doesn’t get the attention it deserves. Instead, it the body politic waiting for more entertainment, the president slipping on the banana peel he dropped in his own path.

The world waited at day’s end for his word on what to do in Afghanistan, to gauge not only his intent but to see whether he went off-script. The world waited to hear whether he would have anything to say about those surrounding him at the White House, about the chaotic Congress, the hysterical media, his poll numbers, the dissolution of the business councils and the exit of Carl Icahn. Would he have new tweets about all of the above? And will he expand on his tweets about the Navy and the Confederacy?

The unfolding chaos in the public square is no ordinary eruption. And not everyone is equipped with the right gear to watch. Everyone wants learned commentary with reason and restraint. Maybe the shrieking animals at the zoo, the madly circling giraffes and the charging rhinos have just been watching too much cable television.

In a saner world the science would be the thing, the mystery of Creation even more so. The symmetry and majesty of the sun and moon is clearly beyond our ken. The shrieking animals may understand more than we do.

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