Straight to the Looney Bin

Last week my crazy grandmother, Etta, would have been 106 had she not done the world an enormous favor by finally tipping over back in 1980.   Much to my chagrin, however, I continuously find that while Etta is safely interred on her hilltop promontory alongside a 1953-modern statue of the Blessed Virgin, what I’ll call Etta-ism is alive and kicking; a combination of her obstinacy, know-nothingism, free floating bigotry, and violent outbursts have come to define the political right as never before.  This woman, who firmly believed that 8 x 0 = 8,  thought (and said so to their faces) that people who didn’t “talk American” ought to go back to the “old country,” and for good measure, black people who worked as maids or shoeshine boys were to be applauded for “knowing their place” was, back in the day, considered crazy.  Today, she could be a serious contender for the Republican nomination.  How times have changed, and not for the better.

Witness this conversation between my mother (Joan) and a doctor at the hospital where she was being treated for heart trouble:

DOCTOR:  Your mother is abusive and out of touch with reality.

JOAN:  Really?  She must be feeling better.

DOCTOR:  Well, we plan to hold her for psychiatric evaluation when her condition stabilizes, and wanted to let you know.

Those were the days, huh?  When somebody, even a potentially terminal hospital patient, yelled at everybody and said demeaning things about them while believing a whole slew of patently errant nonsense with unseemly and ferocious fervor, the reality-based community (in this case the doctors) used to step in, inform the family,  hand the person a book of rubber wallpaper samples to peruse, and call it a day.  Now, demented loudmouths like Etta who believe, say, that the world is 6000 years old, Jesus was against taxing rich people, hurricanes are caused by uppity gays, and that climate change is a fraud cooked up by greedy scientists, proudly (and too often, successfully) pursue political careers.  Even Etta knew her limits; when she was threatened with real authority by a judge who was about to hold her in contempt for talking about baseball bats and their usefulness to her court case, she knew enough to pipe down.  No such reasonable checks on cuckoo behavior affect crazy people today, as long as they’re politicians, or maybe Fox News hosts.  Thirty years later, perhaps it’s time to start talking about how the eight times zero “controversy” is “still not settled.”

The next call Joan made that night was to Etta herself, at the hospital:

JOAN:  Listen, Mother, you had better shape up or you’re never getting out of that hospital.  You’re going straight to the Looney Bin.

Etta’s response was never accurately recorded, an oversight for which I’m eternally frustrated; we had a half dozen extension telephones, at least one equipped with recording devices we used all the time, and Etta died later that night, much to the delight of all concerned.  At the rosary, one of Joan’s oldest friends walked up to her and said, “I guess I’m sorry,” and that wouldn’t be the last time I had to suppress a laugh that week.

I’ve stopped laughing long ago.  Etta’s back, and she’s running for President.



  1. Annice says:

    From hearing all the Etta stories Hagster, this is a great post!

    • cocktailhag says:

      Look forward to more. Etta stories, albeit with new characters playing Etta with uncanny accuracy, will be the news for the foreseeable future.

    • The Heel says:

      I agree. Still have a big smile in my face. BTW, can we vote for dead people, yet? I mean Etta wouldn’t do a worse job than the O&W – or any of the Rep. contenders….

      Maybe Pixar can animate her and you can sit in a secret control room and make her say heinous things at state dinners with darkies. I think that would be even more fun than what President Bachman and first lady Marcus would naturally pull off.

      Seriously tempted…

      • cocktailhag says:

        I thought of you just now, when Annice and I had to agree that for a 52-year-old, Bachmann is sort of hot. But still, heel, she’s a bonkers person, and you ought to pour some ice water down your pants for a change, please?
        As she herself used to say, “Etta is bettah,” (that would be the answer to “Pete is neat,” Andy is dandy, and so forth…) and unfortunately, given the current field, she’s probably right.
        I’d rather vote for Etta than any of the usual suspects, perhaps even Obama. Something about that white mushroom hairdo and that mink coat…. Just seems more honest.

  2. Amanda Whittier says:

    Etta’s fundraising slogan? Give her the money! Give her the money!

  3. mikeinportc says:

    :) )))) Why not vote for Etta? Start the movement, CH. It’d be ROFF’nL time if everybody gave them all the Ashcroft treatment. ( When he lost to the dead guy.)
    Bachman actually sounded sane, for ~ 30 sec. That is what Rick Perry can do for Uh-murrica. ;)

    Btw Kathleen Parker ( very dependable!) came out with a “we” column, about how “we” gave in to hysteria, post 9-11, and did some awful things. A label for Chomsky’s United States of Amnesia should be pasted over every one of these columns. ;)

    • cocktailhag says:

      I’m sorely tempted, but I’d be forever guilt stricken if she won, which she probably would.
      I’m going to have to have an unwanted look-see at Parker’s latest steaming pile; I also am mesmerized by gruesome car crashes. Go figure…