Generational gap: Knowing what is ironic from what is not

A man running for president claiming he will develop a potential 51st state on the moon by 2020 can win over South Carolina, but high schoolers in Utah can’t call themselves Cougars.

What’s that, Will Smith? I agree, parents just don’t understand.

Two weeks ago the future students of Corner Canyon High in Draper, Utah, spoke. Over mascot choices such as Bears, Falcons, Raptors and Diamondbacks, the plurality vote of 23 percent picked Cougars for the new school.

All was well until a group of meddling parents with too much time on their hands got involved. Cougar, in case you don’t know, carries an unspeakable second meaning.

For the feisty feline can also be a foxy, fornicating 40-something female pursuing fantastically formed freshman-age fellas!

Lord knows as long as pubescent football players can’t call themselves Cougars, they won’t talk about their quarterback’s hot mom. And never mind the fact that students at the Mormon collegiate pride of Utah, Brigham Young University, call themselves Cougars.

While such a tale may seem passing and minor, it is not. This gets at what we attack as ridiculous and what we accept as normal.

It is normal for news agencies to discover ridiculous things about politicians. It is normal to see those things as ridiculous.

It is ridiculous for politicians to report ridiculous things about themselves. But, for some reason, we see those ridiculous things as normal.

Consider: This November, Newt Gingrich, acting as Republican candidate for president, gets exposed by NBC as seriously pursuing a lunar colony. While Stephen Colbert and Jon Stewart get off their (predictable) shots, the major news affiliates run their own (predictably) critical stories. Gingrich (predictably) qualifies the major news stories as unquestionably unfair, ludicrously liberal and resoundingly repugnant. Enough moderate voters are convinced of Gingrich’s insanity to swing a landslide reelection of President Obama.

But this can’t happen; Gingrich spun his lunar colony idea as Americanly “bold” and “grandiose.” Where food stamps for struggling citizens is “European” and so Saul Alinsky, a lunar colony is as hardy as apple pie.

Gingrich basically says “Yeah, I’m crazy as hell. And you know what? I’m proud of it!” Americans dig that. Adults struggling to understand their changing world dig that.

What they don’t dig is kids choosing an innocent name. I mean, it’s not like kids would want to emulate their intrastate collegiate role models. There has to be more!

This is a column about paranoia. Our nation’s paranoia. We don’t believe anything at face value anymore. Some sit at home and laugh at the truth while others wear their finest outfits and watch intently in packed auditoriums as millionaires “berate”: each other for making the exact same investments.

Newt: “Why don’t you apologize to the American people for investing in Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac.”

Mitt: “I’ll do that as soon as you do that!”

Newt: “I didn’t do that.”

Mitt: “Yes you did. I have proof.”

Newt: “Well I don’t understand why we have to get personal here. It’s just so ugly (feigned angst here). ”

We are The United States of Alanis Morissette. We see irony in all the wrong places. We prefer the veil tightly wrapped around us rather than off in the distance waiting to be pulled back. It’s easier that way.

We like the feeling of that veil on our skin. It keeps us safe and confident in all the systems to which we subscribe.

But when we don’t feel the soothing touch of choking irony, and when we can’t see it off in the distance, we assume it’s hidden from us.

We get angry. We demand its presence.

This is wrong. Sometimes a cigar’s a cigar.

This is a column about irony, our nation’s addiction to imaginary irony, and how that affects the nation’s reaction to two other types of messages.

1. Present people with quality irony and they: a) find it enjoyable b) find it appalling or c) (worst of all) don’t get it.

2. Present people with an irony-free message and they: a) find it acceptable b) find it appalling or c) (worst of all) don’t get it. This all comes from the third message.

3. Present falsely perceived irony and people: a) find it acceptable b) find it appalling or c) (worst of all) embrace it.

Parents read here: Yes, I am attacking older people in my column. When they take seriously something younger people see as ridiculous, like millionaires in a pissing match, they say we will understand some day.

When younger people take seriously something adults see as ridiculous, like naming themselves Cougars, kids say parents just don’t understand.

The problem is this: in the case of the would-be Cougars, young people likely saw it as some form of 1 or 2. The adult’s reaction was 3b.

In the case of the lunar colony, adults see it as some form of 2. Young people wish it was some form of 1 and eventually accept that it is some form of 3.

The problem is this: Both are irony free.

Luckily, my collegemates, we have time to work on the adult we will become. Do you want to be an adult who laughs at the preposterous idea of naming a team the Cougars while spending serious cash on a lunar state? Or do you want to laugh at the cougar Cougar mom while you seriously shut down the lunar state?

_Phil is a senior in Media._