Forever Young: One Flew Out of the Cuckoos Nest

Hope Harris

It wasn’t a matter of whether one was liberal or conservative, Republican or Democrat. And even though it took place more than a month ago, I felt Wednesday, February 27 — when Michael Cohen testified before the House Oversight Committee — was a watershed moment after two-plus years of a puzzle whose pieces never fit.

Seven hours of watching and listening finally offered up a narrative for the chaos of news sound bites — fake news or “real.”

(I once counted on “Morning Joe” to find and tell the truth. Turns out they didn’t always get it right. And Fox was state run.

So Rachel Maddow would be the truth at the end of every day. She at least followed the beginning of a story and reminded us of historical precedence, but by the end of the show there was still confusion and chaos passing for truth.)

Every night I went to bed unbalanced, discombobulated and had, for a straight two years, very bad dreams. Towns falling apart, trains and planes going off the tracks and falling out of the sky. People screaming at one another and getting into fights.

But after hearing Cohen — granted a confessed liar and criminal, a not-so-bright guy looking for a “there” where there was none, but finding it in Trump — we had a line of action we could follow. We had names and dates. It didn’t matter which side one was on; it mattered that there was a beginning, a vague middle, and at last, to date, more or less a map from There to Here. Cohen was telling the story. Television was the campfire we were sitting around listening to the counselor telling us a riveting and frightening story.

At the end of the day and for days afterwards I wondered if Cohen’s “testimony” would have been so necessary a road to follow if this administration hadn’t come into being during (and maybe because of) the social age; a social media that made it possible to lie to us, distract us, disengage us from memory and fact.

Too much misinformation, 24 hours of “news” (everything is now “breaking” news), too many conflicting facts, too many talking heads. Too many ads, too many “he said she said.” Just too many choices for the truth.

In an age of high-speed lies and polarization, we’re all inmates, unsure of where we are and who’s in control. And who knows what’s in the pill (the news) that we’ve been told to swallow.

Michael Cohen, on February 27, was Jack Nicholson disguised as R.J. Murphy in the 1975 movie “One Flew Over The Cuckoo’s Nest.” Because, like Murphy’s character, and at least for a day, Cohen opened the doors. He let in some light. He rounded us up, got all of us — the inmates — out and onto the bus, then drove the bus hell-bent off the asylum’s grounds and through the institution’s huge gates into a sunny day of connected dots.

Criminal though he is, insecure and in need of a father figure, Cohen at least testified that we were all, ALL, baffled and bamboozled.

And it wasn’t just by Trump. We created a crazy culture. We weren’t watching. We weren’t paying attention. Maybe we won’t have to go through more years of being incarcerated in the cuckoo nest, but if we end up there, we’ll have only ourselves to blame.

Mr. Cohen, who’ll be in jail, warned us. On February 27 for 7 hours straight, with one bathroom break and a half hour to have a meal, he warned us. It doesn’t make him a hero but it also doesn’t make him a villain. He was looking for someone to follow: Trump as his Jim Jones. Signing on to Scientology.

Drink the Kool-Aid, throw yourself off the roof for the cult. That’s what he did and that’s how he’ll end up.

One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest. A cautionary tale if ever there was one.