If a picture is worth a thousand words, then sometimes the lyrics to a pop song are worth ten thousand. Take the They Might Be Giants’ song “Everything Right Is Wrong Again.” The lyrics go like this: “Everything right is wrong again. Every movement false, every four is waltz again. Every five-and-dime\’s been gained and spent. Tell me that you like my float upstream. Draw the line dividing laugh and scream. You know everything that I know so I know. You\’ve heard the voice that makes the silent noise that says that everything that\’s right is wrong again.”
They Might Be Giants are saying that, in true Murphy’s law fashion, everything that could possibly go wrong has. The song also seems to imply that even things that no one could have predicted could go wrong, have changed or been annihilated. By the end of the stanza, it just goes back to the beginning, making the whole thing feel circular and insane.
This They Might Be Giants song, in its own obscure, pop-culture way, mirrors the current political moment. Everything, it seems, is wrong again. Four years after the U.S. – led invasion of Iraq, the United States is still waging its Global War on Terror. In Ventura County alone, 15 soldiers have died during the conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan. Gas prices are once again over $3 a gallon. The question, four years later, is what has the Iraq War accomplished? What has gone right? And perhaps the hardest question of all is: How has the Iraq War improved the lives of people here?
In short, it hasn’t. The war has not helped with the county’s inflated housing prices or housing shortage. The war has not improved traffic on the 101 freeway. The war has not brought local families closer together. The war has not helped farm workers who may be in debt or out of work due to this winter’s freeze. The war has not helped solve the problem of erosion in La Conchita. The war has not helped literacy rates or prevented gang violence or ended graffiti or saved the Wagon Wheel from destruction. In fact, there has been no real-life benefit for the average American, after four years of fighting in a foreign land with a nebulous enemy.
By its title, “Everything Right Is Wrong Again” sounds like it is going to be a concrete, dualistic examination of right and wrong. However, fans of They Might Be Giants know that none of their songs is straightforward. Like dada-ist poetry, the band throws ordinary bits and pieces of the everyday together haphazardly to make some sort of oblique commentary on society. That’s why their song works so perfectly right now. Any simplistic notions of what should happen or good versus evil just don’t add up, and politics are devolving into chaos theory.
There is a curse that goes: May you live in interesting times. Indeed, that is where we are. Last week, Newt Gingrich confessed that he was involved in an extramarital affair just as he tore then-President Clinton to shreds for the exact same moral violation. Lewis Libby was found guilty of lying about his part in the Valerie Plame leak scandal. Saddam Hussein was executed by his countrymen. President Bush is still in charge. There is no right or wrong, only the constant of change. The war will end and They Might Be Giants will still make sense. Let’s just hope the fighting ends before the band does.