At Home in a Mad Age

Reading the past for perspective

Lisa Renee
5 min readNov 29, 2018


Photo by Jingda Chen on Unsplash

“A still, lovely summer’s evening; the grapes ripening, the oxen ploughing. Only man is mad.” Iris Origo

As a writer, I want to write. I long to fill pages with the tangle in my head. I want to write about food and memories, my body and my grandmother. I’d like to write about light or fire, worry or wine. But the world burns and the worst of men spoil the everyday. I want the unspoiled everyday back.

I want to write, but look at the news!

These last two years — these last two political years, to clarify — have been a nonstop circus, a festival of madness and bad reports. The political looms large. The noise outside the kitchen window has been so great and terrible, it’s impossible to ignore. It curdles the custard and sours the sweets. We can’t seem to look away from this increasingly rotten national moment, and it’s contributing to a sickness in the soul of the nation.

That’s how I feel. That’s how most of my friends and family feel, as well. As the voices on social media and at the ballot box imply, it’s how most of us feel. We’re exhausted, disgusted, incredulous at each new offense. From the trivial (umbrella mismanagement) to the alarming (too many to list in this space), we are every day bug-eyed with disbelief, rage, and fear. It feels new.

Is it new, however? Perhaps not totally. My husband argues (annoyingly) that none of this is new — it’s just more overt. He’s partially right. The staggering offenses pile up so fast, in the bright daylight, that we reel from each shock, unprepared for the next. It’s no secret to anyone paying attention that US politics have always been driven by greed, built on racism and misogyny, rife with corruption. That is not new. In the past, however, it seemed more cloak-and-dagger, more backroom cigar-and-handshake shenanigans. The public face of previous marauders was a little more hail-fellow-well-met, able to fool larger numbers of the busy sheep. And, usually, a few heroes and heroines rose up to check the madness. Today’s public faces, for better or worse, openly lie and spin and spit — they sneer and wag their fingers at us while their machine plunders away. We await our heroes and heroines.