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

Monday, July 24, 2017

Donald Trump And The Art Of Exaggeration–Without It Life Would Be Tedious Indeed

Aunt Tally, the story goes, was a Colorado rancher born in the back room of a Nevada whore house, worked as a Laramie barkeep in her twenties, rustled cattle across the Rio Grande in Sonora in her thirties, and served as Deputy Sheriff of Pima County Arizona until she bought her ranch spread in Paonia at forty-five.

Some of the story is true.  Tally Lord was indeed a Western rancher born in Colorado; and one of the first women to become a senior law enforcement officer in the State of Arizona; but the rest was added for emphasis. 

The Lord family, all of whom except Tally’s branch were Easterners and direct descendants of the earliest settlers of the Massachusetts Bay Colony – governors, shippers, merchants, and bankers. 

Image result for images wealthy settlers mass bay colony

The Western Lords were among the first settlers of Colorado, taking up the offer of the railroads for free land along the right-of-way, luckily finding silver on their 10,000 acres but moving over the Rockies when they saw their mines play out and buying well-watered land in the fertile valleys on the western slopes.

Image result for images colorado mining towns 19th century

The early Lords had had no sons, so the responsibility for their ranching enterprise was left to Tally who turned a profit in the third year thanks to ample rains, management instincts, and good relationships with the Bureau of Land Management and local elected officials. 

The rest – questionable birth and income and reputation as a rustling gunslinger – were all fanciful inventions by her relatives who had never been west of the Monongahela, added incrementally over time, so that by the time the real Tally took her last breath at 100, she bore no resemblance at all to the down-to-earth, ambitious, and very practical woman she had always been. 

No one goes for long without stretching the truth, adding a bit of spice to an otherwise uninteresting vacation or to the ordinary lives of their children.  Gas mileage, profit margins, awards, sexual conquests, accolades, promotions, and golf handicaps are all bumped up or down a bit.  All credible, not far from the truth, harmless, and while self-serving, not impossible.

Life in fact would be dreary and dull without exaggeration.  Who wants to hear about accountancy, middle management, and mortgages? And who doesn’t want to hear lions, tigers, close encounters with African militias, near-death experiences in the Carpathians, and trapping marmot on the Tibetan plateau?

In ‘The Devil - Ivan’s Nightmare’ Chapter of The Brothers Karamazov Dostoyevsky creates a very different kind of Devil, one dressed in the slightly shabby clothes of a diminished aristocrat; one with a sense of humor, irony, even vaudeville.  Where would you all be without me, the Devil, asks.  Life would be a bloody bore, wouldn’t it?

God preserve me from it, but one can't help complaining sometimes. I am a slandered man. You upbraid me every moment with being stupid. One can see you are young. My dear fellow, intelligence isn't the only thing! I have naturally a kind and merry heart. ‘I also write vaudevilles of all sorts.’
Without criticism [life] would be nothing but one ‘hosannah.’ But nothing but hosannah is not enough for life, the hosannah must be tried in the crucible of doubt and so on, in the same style. But I don't meddle in that, I didn't create it, I am not answerable for it. Well, they've chosen their scapegoat, they've made me write the column of criticism and so life was made possible. We understand that comedy; I, for instance, simply ask for annihilation. No, live, I am told, for there'd be nothing without you. If everything in the universe were sensible, nothing would happen. There would be no events without you, and there must be events.
So against the grain I serve to produce events and do what's irrational because I am commanded to. For all their indisputable intelligence, men take this farce as something serious, and that is their tragedy. They suffer, of course ... but then they live, they live a real life, not a fantastic one, for suffering is life. Without suffering what would be the pleasure of it? It would be transformed into an endless church service; it would be holy, but tedious.
“Life would be holy, but tedious”, the Devil says echoing the words of Ivan who has hallucinated the scene, created it in delirium no differently than he wrote his short story of The Grand Inquisitor.
Dostoyevsky’s Devil has much more modest designs on man – peccadilloes, silly indiscretions, bald-faced lies, minor deceptions and deceits. 

Yet exaggeration has been given a bad name by many.  In liberal quarters truth, objectivity, and dispassionate, logical analysis are necessary ideals for a complex, troubled world.  Progressivism is based on the assumption that, despite the discouraging lessons of history, humanity can evolve to a better, more peaceful, and cooperative world – but only if enough investment is made.  There is nothing that logical discipline, commitment, and purposeful endeavor cannot achieve.  Exaggeration, idealistic distortion, lies, deceit, and untruth are the enemies of progress.

The election of Donald Trump has been progressives’ worst nightmare.  Not only has be been characterized as evil – misogynistic, homophobic, and racist – but he lies.  He distorts the truth, tells outrageous stories, makes impossible promises; and even worse he – the master of deception, exaggeration, and mendacity – blames his opponents for ‘fake news’, bias, and media distortion. 
Of all these sins, his lies are the worst.  If Trump simply stuck to his hateful policies and programs, liberals’ criticisms would be tempered.  After all, George Bush, Nixon, and Reagan were called out for their crony capitalism, insider politics, and intellectual corruption.  One could deal with them on an even playing field.

But what to do with a vaudevillian, a circus clown, a side show freak who not only cares nothing for the truth but values the same exaggerations and inflated fantasies so hated by the Left?

Image result for images 19th century barnum and bailey circus

The Great Gandolfo was the greatest magician of the early 19th century.  Because of a somewhat shady and questionable past, the big circuses like Barnum & Bailey never engaged him.  On the small tent, county fair, 4H and watermelon circuit he was a big draw.  He performed all the classic magic tricks – sawing a woman in half, wriggling out of a buccaneer’s chains, and making pigeons and rabbits appear and disappear – but his real talent was legerdemain. 

What his audience saw – a hand of cards, a live toad, a glass of water, or a furled flag – was nothing of the sort.  He made everything change in appearance, change places, colors, dimensions, and posture.  By the end of his show no one was sure exactly what they had seen or what had become of what they did.

Gandolfo was brilliant, exotic, and absolutely compelling.  He wore a traditional magician’s outfit – top hat, white tie, and tails – before every audience no matter how humble.  It was a showman’s outfit, what everyone expected; and his hat woven of fine silk, his studs of 14 karat diamonds, and his tuxedo tailored in Bond Street, showed his respect and gratitude for his followers.  He never thought of them as gullible or naïve, and prided himself on giving them what they wanted in glamorous style.

Everyone knew that rabbits didn’t really disappear, that no one could possibly read minds or dismember and reassemble women’s bodies; but they willingly suspended disbelief.  It was the circus after all, and one didn’t pay good money to see railroad tracks being laid or cows being milked.
In fact the voters of rural America suspend their disbelief all the time; and the circus was just the most theatrical display of it.  They are sure that Armageddon is coming within their lifetimes, that the End of Days is nigh, and that Jesus will soon receive them on their entrance to heaven.  No matter how much paleontological evidence is presented; no matter how many prehistoric fossils are discovered; and no matter how disciplined and rigorous the logical line of inference might be, they know absolutely, unequivocally, and with all their hearts that God created Man in his image.

Image result for images durer armageddon

It didn’t take Donald Trump to create the suspension of disbelief; he only gave loud voice to it.  His exaggerations, evangelical bombast, impossible distortions and fantastical stories were par for the course for Americans who never had any faith in liberal ‘truth’.  For all Washington’s insistence on governance, sane policies, objective analysis, and good judgment, nothing could be less true.  Better to embrace an out-and-out vaudevillian who understands the frustrations, resentments, and anger of the people than those who posture and say they do. 

“He gets it, he gets us, and we get him”, they said.

Donald Trump is nothing new.  He has only been waiting in the wings for his moment.  He is today’s quintessential American – a man fast and loose with the truth, never corralled, all Wild West, Hollywood, big tent braggadocio, and televangelist. 

He is one of us. We all have an Aunt Tally; and now we have the biggest, greatest, most stupendous Aunt Tally ever.

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