"Whenever I go into a restaurant, I order both a chicken and an egg to see which comes first"

Sunday, December 4, 2016

If Life’s A Circus, Why Not Enjoy It? Trump Wins And Fun Is Back

The past year of American electoral politics and the year and a half of the Trump presidency have been the most fun ever.  Nothing like the Donald Trump Show with its beautiful women, braggadocio, outsized personalities, glitz, glamour, wealth, and hucksterism has ever come to town, and now it is here to stay.

The Left sees nothing funny in Trump’s fast and loose way with the facts, his shameless promises and his big tent revivalist hoopla.  The issues facing America – civil injustice, a warming climate, the unequal distribution of wealth, and the concentration of power in the hands of the few – are too many to spare a a laugh or two.  Jesus never laughed, progressives often comment, because his mission was too important and too sacred for humor.  There is nothing at all funny about the desperation of the inner city, the abuse of women, or the destruction of the environment.

Trump supporters, on the other hand, laugh all the time.  Trump’s one-liners, caricatures, imitations, and zingers are better than those of Milton Berle, Sid  Caesar, Rodney Dangerfield, Joey Bishop, and Jackie Mason all put together.  Trump is a one-man vaudeville show, a three-ring circus, Borscht Belt comic, and evangelical revivalist all rolled into one. 

True, sanctimony, righteousness, and moral rectitude are easy targets.  The most talented Hollywood comedy writers could never have come up with the scripts written on college campuses.  Safe spaces, verboten Halloween costumes, politically pure speech, conservative disinvites, re-segregated dorms and cafeterias; and LGBT trannies teaching Milton would provide enough comic material for a hundred sitcom episodes.

Images of nuclear Armageddon, burnt lands turned to desert, cascades of polluted water, and the mass extermination of birds and bees are perfect for campy B-movie posters.

Caricatures of Trump supporters – toothless, flag-waving Bible-thumping, gun-toting, bass-fishing redneck ignoramuses – are funny too, and not far off-target.  Nor are images of sweet young gay couples at the altar with no idea what they have in store after ten years of marriage; tired Mexican field hands, faces burned by the California sun turned upward in longsuffering patience and dignity; children of multiple intelligences expressing their diversity. 

The ghoulish portraits of Wall Street investors are no different from the Nazi and Jap caricatures of World War II – demonic, bloodthirsty, rapists.

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Let’s face it.  America is one big circus.  How can anyone take Black Friday seriously?  The most hysterical expression of American materialism ever conjured up. Or Las Vegas, an entire city of bad taste?  Or bum culture in San Francisco; bling, spinners, and pimp-walks; cowboy hats and hand-tooled boots; debutante ball revivals, Barbie, and cheap $100k weddings?  Muscle beaches, muscle cars, conventions, Bible study, and locavores? Or even Nantucket topsider chic, Vineyard faux intellectual chic, McMansions and the Mar-el-Lagos of Palm Beach. 

No one is exempt.  Everyone is a caricature to someone else.  Rickety old people, bubbly girly-girl teenagers, real estate agents, Latino leaf-blowers.  Our enterprise, ambition, and unparalleled individuality are serious enough; but it is the greed of Enron, Bernie Madoff, the Seven Dwarves of Phillip Morris, Lorillard, et. al.; the barefaced lies of philandering John Edwards, Newt Gingrich, Bill Clinton, and Mark Sanford that keep us glued to the television. 

We are all sexual infidels of one kind or another; greedy in some way; unethically competitive in others.  We all share the American ethos; and if looked at from Skylab, we are not just eager, determined, and purposeful; but circus performers playing out the same, predictable, outrageously exaggerated roles.

One should have sympathy for the seriously mentally ill; but the antics of the partially deranged are something else entirely. Betty Parsons was the head of the Hospital Auxiliary and the reference librarian at the New Brighton Public Library.  She was quiet and proper, but anyone who paid attention could see the hinges on her tightly-closed emotional doors start to come loose.  Jimmy, the smoke shop oracle, said that in November she started to look at the girly magazines in the back of his store, usually the redoubt of the town’s old men.  She always politely thanked him, Jimmy said, and paid for her copy of Cunt! in exact change. 

“I wasted a lot of good paper bags on that lady”, Jimmy complained.  Most of the men who came into his shop couldn’t care less who saw their copies of Slut and Come, but Mrs. Parsons insisted on brown paper bags.  She carefully place her magazine deep into the well of her handbag and covered it with her sweater, scarf, and hanky.

Mrs. Prentice Lee, a distant but recognized relative of the great Southern general, who shoved her husband down three flights of stairs in their elegant antebellum home because of what we would now recognize as a chemical disorder, but in those days was the result of a fevered, jealous mind.  Prentice Lee was a known philanderer and abusive husband, but for some unknown reason his wife loved him desperately and despaired when he went tomcatting in Jackson.  When she found him buggering the downstairs maid in the pantry, something in her snapped.  She calmly picked up a slice of pound cake, quietly shut the door, and the next day sent poor Prentice tumbling down the elegant staircase to his death. 

Everyone in Drake, Alabama, it seems, has some kind of chemical imbalance. No one simply gets married, has children, and goes quietly and serenely into old age.  There has to be a ruckus.  Lois Ames, for example, tossed her drunken husband onto South Street at midnight and he ended up by getting doused by the street cleaners at 6 AM. Logan Roper, an Assistant Manager at the Wells Fargo bank, stockpiled more guns than the State armory and liked shooting squirrels from his porch swing with one of his prized possessions, an AK-47 used in the Russian invasion of Afghanistan. 

The neighbors were not at all surprised at Roper shooting squirrels, for they all did it, but thanks to his big-caliber gun he was obliterating them in a bloody spray, and the bits and pieces of squirrel that were scattered on the sidewalk made it difficult to walk.  Even the old-time police chief who thought he had seen everything, was surprised at the cache in Roper’s basement.  The man had everything from .22 plinkers to grenade launchers, bazookas, and 50mm cannons.

The  moral of the story is that there is far more craziness around than any of us are willing to admit.  Wheels get wobbly and come off at an alarming rate regardless of race, gender, ethnicity, or demography.

Whenever I walk down the street, I am reminded that each of us is twitchy, hangdog, perky, purposeful, down-at-the-heels, or morose. Our eyes flutter or squint.  We grimace, hard smile for the camera, bouncing along or drag our feet.

So, recognize your loose screws, get them tightened, talk proudly about your survival, and continue to have a good laugh at the craziness of others.

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