Chicken Little vs Alfred E Neumann
Sometimes my little brain reverts to periods in my past, oddly enough conjuring up memories that seem to make sense in today’s environment. What is more bizarre is that I combine these memories, meld them together and come to some semblance of an explanation for current events. Usually these memories are without apparent juxtaposition, seemingly unconnected by either time or message. They come from different periods of my life. They seem to spring from wayward neurons that latch on to a disjointed concept which becomes whole.
Do you remember the childhood story of Henny Penny? The little chicken who believed that the sky was falling because an acorn fell on her head. Since she had no awareness that it was an acorn, she surmised that it was part of the sky. In the story she enlisted several other of her barnyard friends in a mission to inform the king that the sky was falling, only to encounter a fox who was more than pleased to mislead the gang with the intention of securing a few good meals. The fox’s plan was thwarted by Turkey-Perky and Goosey-Brucie. The goose slammed the oak tree causing more acorns to fall on Henny Penny, who then realized that it had been acorns all along that caused her confabulation. All the friends returned home glad that the fox had not eaten them and that the sky was not falling.
Alfred E Neumann was a counter-hero in my college days. We waited anxiously for the newest edition of “Mad” magazine to hit the newsstands. Why would we be so focused on the round headed, vacant expression, slightly enigmatic smiling semi-blob? Precisely because of the country’s environment. The Vietnam war was raging and we males were on there hook to become cannon fodder. Race relations were in the forefront of domestic issues. The entire country was unsettled at best. In some circles Barry Goldwater was perceived as wanting to unleash the nukes on everyone. In others Lyndon Johnson seemed to be incapable of telling the Truth, at least about Vietnam. It was angst throughout the land. Alfred’s approach was the famous statement “What me worry?”.
As I considered these two seemingly disparate stories, it a occurred to me, as I watched the initial presidential debate, that each story defined, in part, the state of our country. Part of the citizenry are in a constant state of trepidation. The president will destroy the country, the pandemic will decimate the population, the economy will never recover, we have never experienced such turmoil, ad infinatum. As the election approaches, worry and fear of impending doom actually is the only event that is common between every faction. There are groups that extrapolate an acorn falling on their heads into confabulations of conspiracy to the point of attempting to act upon these conspiracies. We find most factions gathering adherents and marching to warn the king of impending doom, except the king wouldn’t care, he has his own adherents pointing to their own acorns falling. Henny Penny and gang had their concerns allayed by the arrival of many acorns that knocked out the fox. Might be that this will happen. One issue that concerns me is what will happen to the acorns that have already fallen. What oak trees will they produce?
Alfred E Neumann on the other hand is the epitome of the unconcerned. Apathetic and blaze are Alfred’s watchwords. There is a section of the populace who seem impervious to the environment. The chaos that surrounds us all is met with a shrug of the shoulders and a Neumann emotionless expression. His “What me worry?” Is an unspoken meme that influences a number of our fellow citizens to avoid declaring for one faction or another. Its another declaration that nothing matters, not avoiding COVIT 19, not voting, immersing oneself into crowded situations, failing to support fellow citizens.
Will the confusion and chaos end once the election is over and a winner is declared? How do we tamp down the panic of Henny Penny, or elevate the nonchalance of Alfred E Neumann? Will the conspiracy theories dissipate or the uncaring leave us, can we unite the nation? May be we need to fell the oak tree to remove the potential falling acorns.