Hi ho, hi ho, it’s off the fiscal cliff we go ….
Yes, it’s still pretty early in the process. Negotiators in Washington are several weeks from the deadline for averting the so-called fiscal cliff, which would automatically kick in some $600 billion in tax hikes and spending cuts. But so far, neither side is willing to take the steps necessary to alter course. U.S. Sen. Lindsey Graham of South Carolina predicted over the weekend that “we’re going over the cliff,” and it wouldn’t be a surprise if he turns out to be right.
In preparation for that moment, I thought it might be timely to review five classic examples of cliff-jumping, including a brief analysis of the techniques, motivations and survival strategies, if any, involved in each.
1. The iconic “Thelma and Louise:”
The “Thelma and Louise” is a grand philosophical gesture. It makes a statement to the world that life as we had previously known it just isn’t worth living any longer, so what the hell, right? Put the pedal to the metal and let’s see what happens.
A surprising number of those in Congress, both Republicans and Democrats, have apparently joined the “Thelma and Louise Caucus,” raising the odds that we’ll be going over the edge in spectacular style. As Louise told Thelma, “You’ve always been crazy. This is just the first chance you’ve had to express yourself.”
Among other things, it’s a terrible waste of a 1966 Thunderbird convertible.
2. The “Wile E. Coyote”:
Wile E. Coyote is obsessed with catching the Roadrunner, but in the end is always frustrated by his own incompetence and bungling. Quite often, his dreams and plans involve mail-order Acme products, such as Acme rockets, Acme earthquake pills or, in the case of the 2012 GOP campaign, Acme polling and Acme Senate candidates.
The good news is that the Coyote is indestructible. After every failed attempt — most of which involve long, painful falls off a cliff — he picks himself up and tries again. The bad news is, he never seems to learn that doing the same thing over and over again only ensures that you keep getting the same bad results. That is both his charm and his fatal flaw.
3. The Acalpulco Cliff Diver:
The secret to surviving this form of cliff-diving is timing. If you launch your dive at the proper moment, as the ocean waves are surging in toward you, there will be enough water in the bay below to allow a safe entry. However, if you time it wrong — if you jump just as the waves are washing back out to sea — you can find yourself diving headfirst into the rocks below, and the results ain’t pretty.
I think there’s a lesson there, Speaker Boehner.
4. “The Buffalo Jump”:
In the days before the arrival of the horse in North America, Native American tribesmen would whip herds of buffalo into a fearful frenzy and then stampede the herd into jumping off a nearby cliff, where they became easy pickings. And if you think about it, frightening others into jumping off a cliff en masse remains a great business model. Just ask Rush Limbaugh, Grover Norquist and Fox News.
5. “BASE jumping:”
BASE is an acronym for Buildings, Antennas, Spans (such as bridges), and Earth (cliffs), all of which become launching points for daredevil jumpers. Early BASE-jumping pioneers used parachutes to break their falls, but as seen in the video above, the latest innovation is wingsuits (no, not this kind of wingsuit), which turn the jumper into the equivalent of Rocket J. Squirrel.
Like Thelma and Louise, base jumpers go over the edge on purpose. Like Wile E. Coyote, base jumpers do a lot of careful planning. (They do not, however, order their equipment from Acme.) And like the Acalpulco cliff divers, base jumpers have every intention of surviving, and they do … most of the time, anyway.
It remains, however, very dangerous and is not for the faint of heart.
– Jay Bookman