Christopher Smart: Making the most of going to hell in a handbasket

It’s time to get your groove on, for the summer at least. The mean, old world isn’t going anywhere.

(Rick Egan | Tribune file photo) Wild flowers on the Willow Heights bench hike in Big Cottonwood Canyon.

Someone once said, “We’re going to hell in a handbasket.”

Someone else once said, “No news there.”

I awakened one recent morning (notice I didn’t say, “woke”) to NPR on my clock-radio alarm. Before I could focus on the beautiful spring morning outside my window, I had the sinking sensation that, well, we are going to hell in a handbasket — again.

Why can’t they fix things these days, I said to no one in particular.

Our redheaded, plus-size prehistoric cousins, the Neanderthals, discovered fire and drew deer and bears on cave walls. Now, thanks to progress, we have gas fireplaces, central AC and big-screen TVs. Still, our ancient in-laws had a whole lot less anxiety, a lot more time off and they didn’t even have to declutter.

Before dragging myself out of bed, the woman on the radio said people were killing each other in all kinds of different places; folks in Congress were calling each other all kinds of venomous names; the West was in a drought and flooding all at the same time; liberals were trying to let boys be girls and vice versa; conservatives were giving tax breaks to the rich and the newscast hadn’t even gotten to Donald Trump or Clarence Thomas, yet.

I slapped the snooze button and pulled the pillow over my head. We’re driving ourselves nuts. The United States is only ranked the 15th happiest country in the world, according to Forbes.

The happiest countries, Finland, Denmark and Iceland are dark and cold and socialist and those folks pay a lot of taxes. But no one is homeless, education and healthcare are available to everyone, and there isn’t widespread gun violence.

So what’s up with, say, Florida and Arizona? They’re warm with lots of sun and golf courses. They also are angry places where folks are distrustful and believe they are being lied to about practically everything. How did that happen? Golf?

Data reveal red state denizens are angrier than folks in blue states — but the whole country seems to be good and pissed off.

Maybe we’re all sick and tired of going to hell in a handbasket. Well, maybe not everyone — some folks apparently have not noticed how bad things suck. At one time I thought people who weren’t up on current events were vapid. Well, maybe they are a bit vacuous but they’re warm and relaxed and say things like hiking, biking and reading John Grisham are rewarding and meaningful. They’re always in a good mood and say stuff like, think globally, act locally.

Now that I think about it, I was once that way myself. Why not hang out reading Kurt Vonnegut and drinking beer all afternoon while listening to Jefferson Aeroplane. Ah, the good old days — we smiled a lot and our grins weren’t illegal, either — for the most part, anyway.

Of course, there was Vietnam, Nixon, Bloody Sunday, the Black Panthers, the Chicago Seven, Kent State and ... things were going to hell in a handbasket.

Someone was supposed to fix all that. Instead, we now have Donald Trump and Clarence Thomas and Marjorie Taylor Greene. There’s growing homelessness, wage inequality and mass gun violence. What would Jesus do?

True enough, even way back in the time of Jesus of Nazareth there was a lot of fear and loathing. One of the things He worked on was how to make the most of this place while the powers-that-be create hell on earth.

There are other approaches, of course, like those of Buddha, Mohammed or the Grateful Dead. But they didn’t have to deal with Twitter or Facebook or FoxNews: Going to hell in an iPhone? The medium may be the message but the destination’s the same.

Just ignore all that. It’s time to get your groove on, for the summer at least. The mean, old world isn’t going anywhere, you can worry about it later — or not.

Christopher Smart is a freelance journalist in Salt Lake City and author of Smart Bomb, which appears in City Weekly.