I opened the refrigerator door the other day and immediately recoiled in horror. It wasn’t because there was no cold beer inside.
“What’s that?” I asked my wife, holding my nose with one hand and pointing inside with the other.
My wife took a peek.
“It’s an onion,” she said very matter-of-factly.
“You mean it used to be an onion,” I replied. “In some previous life.”
“No, it’s still good,” she said, picking it up and eyeing it as she turned it around. “Still useful.”
That’s when I knew I was in for a long speech on the state of the onion.
“But look at it, it’s all dark and shriveled,” I said. “Get rid of that thing. It’s obviously outlived its usefulness, in fact, I think it must have outlived the dinosaurs and maybe even Dick Clark.”
“That’s just on the surface,” the wife pointed out.
“You know how onions are, they’re layered, not just one unified, solid mass like your rutabaga or turnip or North Korea. What you see on the surface is what’s exposed, what the world sees.”
“You mean the result of its interaction with what’s carried on the air,” I posited.
“Or, more often, cable news networks,” the wife replied, taking a sharp 45-degree turn. “Think of this ugly, outside layer as the breaking news. Justin Bieber, mall shootings, governmental gridlock, wars, growing income gaps, etc. Looks pretty bad on the surface, doesn’t it?”
“Looks disgusting,” I said.
“But if you peel off that top layer,” which she did, “what do you have?”
“Ugh, something only slightly less disgusting,” I said. “Still something most folks wouldn’t want to indulge in. I wouldn’t touch it with a 10-foot pole.”
“True,” she said. “At least I would hope so. This level, by its nature, is subterfuge, the stuff that doesn’t get exposed as often but is still lurking there, just underneath the surface. Things like vindictive politicians closing access ramps to busy bridges or refusing to plow the snow in neighborhoods that didn’t support them. Or maybe what the NSA is up to or state legislatures gerrymandering districts to hold onto power. Or big corporations making obscene profits while …”
“No, thanks,” I interrupted her.
“So how is this still a good onion? See, it still has these wormy looking things coming out of the bottom.”
“Because if you keep peeling back the layers you eventually come to the core,” she said. “See, the core is still firm, still doing its job, still so good it’ll sometimes make you cry. Cut off a bit of that core, along with those wormy things on the bottom which are its roots, put them into some good soil and pretty soon you’ll have a whole new onion.”
“Yes,” I said, “but one that will become just as ugly and disgusting as this one in time.”
“Maybe,” the wife said. “It depends on the cooks.”
Marty Russell writes a Wednesday column for the Daily Journal. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.