The Bombardier is Dead
I don’t know what came first, the bullshit chicken, or the absurd egg. What I know is, the America I learned about as a child is on an absurd path. It always has been. The way women and minorities were written into our Constitution was bullshit, and the modern interpretations causing the removal of rights held for half a century is completely absurd.
This absurdity is disorienting and crazy-making. We have a moron former President running to become Emperor, and a good 30% of the electorate more than willing to have him assume that role. The de-evolution of public sanity has gone beyond satire and farce. Something as silly as Trump admitting on tape that he is committing a crime, and to still be walking free with multiple contradictory excuses couldn’t be written into a screenplay because of how nonsensical it is…yet, it is. There is no comic relief because this is actual news.
And, to taunt us further, the fates have taken our anti-hero who raged against the farcical bullshit, Alan Arkin. The great Alan Arkin passed away yesterday. And while Arkin played many roles over his long career, for me he was, is, and always shall be Yossarian from “Catch-22”, by Joseph Heller.
When I first read the book several decades ago, Yossarian was the moral center in a fictional insane world. He was noble in his determination, and relatable in his emotional fragility. It was easy to think, yes, that would drive me nuts too. Then, upon seeing the film, I got to witness Arkin’s brilliance in portraying this complex blend of experiences and emotions. Heller’s story is brilliant in its mixing of horror and humor, hope and disillusionment. In my view, never was an actor more perfectly suited to a character than Alan Arkin with Yossarian.
Spring forward several decades and Catch-22 is no longer merely historical fiction in a farcical fable. In today’s banal madness, Catch-22 has become instructive and prophetic. Catch-22 is America’s “1984”, with a more relatable hero than Winston Smith. Alan Arkin’s portrayal of Captain Yossarian is my favorite portrayal of any literary character, and the character is my favorite character portraying the American experience. The character is so good, so real to me that it bleeds, it breathes, it feels. I just do not know how to take the fact that the actor who played the character so well no longer does.