More years ago than I'd care to remember, Nick Lowe came up with a rhetorical question set to music: "What's so funny 'bout peace, love and understanding?" Elvis Costello cut the definitive version (with Lowe producing) on his Armed Forces LP. (The biggest-selling version was by Curtis Stigers, on the soundtrack to The Bodyguard, though Stigers went largely unnoticed in the wake of Whitney Houston's godawful caterwauling.) Lowe, as always, was at least somewhat tongue-in-cheek, but his point still stands: these three characteristics truly aren't that funny, though love, at least, can engender some good-natured humor at times. (Sex, contrariwise, is hilarious.) Peace isn't funny at all. (For one thing, there are too many good gallows-humor-level war jokes.) And understanding, I have decided, is way overrated.

Somewhere in the debris of the 1960s is the germ of the notion that everything would be okay if only we understood. Case in point: the spectacularly godawful sermon disguised as a pop record, recorded by a non-group called Think in 1971, whose annoying chorus consisted of iterations of "Things get a little easier once you understand." The premise — your stoner son is gonna off himself if you yell at him — is just this side of offensive, but somehow it reinforced a shibboleth masquerading as a principle: no matter what depravity is involved, it is your obligation to be somehow understanding.

I should point out here that I am not at all fond of the War On (Some) Drugs, and I figure that if you can't persuade someone that non-prescribed prescriptions are probably not good for him, threatening him with the Joe Friday treatment will likely be similarly ineffective. I'd extend this premise even to cover this fellow. A Seattle Times columnist notes:

The story last summer about the man who died from a perforated colon while having sex with a horse in Enumclaw was by far the year's most read article.

What's more, four more of the year's 20 most clicked-upon local news stories were about the same horse-sex incident. We don't publish our Web-traffic numbers, but take it from me — the total readership on these stories was huge. So much so, a case can be made that the articles on horse sex are the most widely read material this paper has published in its 109-year history. I don't know whether to ignore this alarming factoid or to embrace it.

The columnist's tone, as I hear it, is a quite reasonable "Ewwww...."

It was inevitable, I suppose, that