Musings of a Matriarch: Have we become accustomed to the absurd?

Sharon Kennedy

The other day I was watching a television program and a guest, who 20 years ago was our Secretary of State, mentioned something about the absurd becoming accepted as “normal” in today’s politics. Anyone who lived through the past year is aware things are quickly going haywire in Washington.

I have no intention of getting into a fracas with anyone and this column is not about politics. However, like Marcellus, an officer of the palace guard in Shakespeare’s Hamlet, we know something’s rotten in Denmark. We may not know who or what is causing the stink, but we know a strong stench is coming from the hallowed halls of our government.

Madeleine Albright is the lady who verbalized the normalization of the absurd. She also mentioned a number of unscrupulous world leaders who were elected to high office. Then she said something about plucking a chicken one feather at a time. Her point being that nobody notices slight changes in the hen until all the feathers are gone and it’s too late to save the fowl. I’ll leave you with that image and its relevance to the current international political scene and EPA deregulations.

Society has changed so much since I was young, it’s hardly recognizable. As you know if you read this column on a regular basis, I live on the 20 acres of my childhood. Although there are dozens more families on my sideroad, it’s still recognizable as a side road not a main thoroughfare. Two-thirds of it are paved. The last third is in another township and remains gravel. Since no one farms anymore, trees have overtaken the fields, wild turkeys roam at will, deer have a natural habitat, and various wildlife abound.

Except for being at the mercy of the weather, I do whatever pleases me. If that means listening to songs from World Wars I and II, there’s no one here to complain that my choice of music is hopelessly outdated. I can watch military documentaries and hope they are real and not reenactments from a Spielberg war movie. I’m fairly isolated from the problems of the world until I turn to a news channel. Then I’m thrust into the madness flourishing beyond my metal walls.

I think we can agree the world we experienced as children has dramatically changed. I wouldn’t want to be a new parent trying to navigate all the ins and outs of child rearing. I have no idea how today’s children are taught the difference between right and wrong, good and bad. I don’t think it’s even politically correct to call anything “bad.” That word has joined a long list of others like “discipline” considered outdated due to their connotation and potentially negative effect on children.

I often refer to toddlers of this century as “designer” children. Usually their parents work and the kiddies are dropped off at a daycare center where they spend endless hours away from Mom and Dad. If wealth is abundant, perhaps a “nanny” or the more impressive “au pair” is hired to watch the kids.

Designer children have the latest and most expensive of everything. A professional photographer is hired to monitor and record every change in the child’s appearance. Photos are posted on social networks so all the world can see how cute Junior and Jane are. Some designer parents post everything from Baby’s first photo immediately after birth up to an age when Baby is a teenager and lays down the law by threatening, “I’ll burn every nude photo taken of me as an infant if you ever again post another one. Obey me or I’ll shoot you.”

So what’s the connection between the scandals and outright animosity in Washington and the family home? Some folks might argue there isn’t one, but I disagree. Social movements often begin in the home and filter up to the powers that govern at the local, state, and federal level. Eventually, outcomes are decided by the U. S. Supreme Court. Who started the movement to remove all trace of Bible readings from public schools? A mayor, governor, Congressional member, or president? Obviously, none of the above.

Most of us credit Madeline Murray O’Hair with the deed, but history reveals a group of families from New York led by Steven Engel first challenged prayer in school in 1962 and won. Who challenged the right to life of an unborn baby? Again, it wasn’t a politician. It was a woman from Texas named Roe. These events didn’t happen overnight. Like a slowly plucked chicken, they crept in a little at a time until each was set in stone by the Supreme Court.

Some of us believe normalization of the absurd began during the 2016 campaign when bullying, name calling, cussing, mockery, and lying became acceptable means of communication. When it started, we laughed at the unconventional way one candidate campaigned. He made politics entertaining. People rallied around him because he was a novelty equivalent to a county fair’s two-headed calf.

But governing is serious business and it’s time for politicians to act like honorable statesmen instead of spoiled brats or fairground freaks. If they can’t, each wife should discipline her husband by taking him over her knee and giving him a whack with a hairbrush. Unlike parents who would be jailed for such an action, it might force politicians to find common ground and stop normalizing the absurd.

Editor’s note: Sharon M. Kennedy of Brimley is a humorist who infuses her musings with a hardy dose of matriarchal common sense. She writes about everyday experiences most of us have encountered at one time or another on our journey through life. Her articles are a combination of present day observations and nostalgic glances of the past. She can be reached via email at In addition, Sharon has compiled a collection of stories from her various newspaper columns. The title of her book is “Life in a Tin Can.” Copies are available from Amazon in paperback or Kindle format.