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

Saturday, July 7, 2018

Things Holy And Profane–Donald Trump And The Importance Of Offending In A Sanctimonious Age

Elizabeth Warren, a United States Senator, announced during the 2016 presidential election that she was of American Indian heritage, a gesture of solidarity with the country’s indigenous population, an affirmation of the importance of cultural diversity, and a demand for reparations for the country’s genocide. To her progressive supporters it was an important statement to the American people that we are all Americans; that race, gender, and ethnicity must always frame our collective experience; and that she would continue her fight for inclusivity, right, and justice.

To Donald Trump, Elizabeth Warren was a caricature of an overwrought liberal – a woman who would dredge up suspicious DNA for political credentials, flaunt them with progressive sanctimony, and engage in shameless auto-hagiography.   She deserved the sarcastic caricature Pocahontas, a swipe at her own self-importance and at the Left’s endless moralizing and self-righteousness. 

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Warren supporters were quick to brand Trump as a racist – an incompetent, ignorant, deeply prejudiced man unworthy of the Presidency.  His remarks, they said, were offensive to Native Americans and to all sensitive, progressive citizens.  They were humorless and indefensible, crude and vulgar, and an insult to a woman who had become one of the Senate’s most important members.

In response Trump supporters cheered; for it was about time that the holier-than-thou Left was called out for its historical revisionism and political cant.  More importantly, Trumpists cheered for their hero’s outrageousness and refusal to calm down, to ‘act presidential’, to keep his own counsel, and to shut up.  Finally they had a president who not only spoke his mind, but did so in the true American way – as insulting and bare-knuckled as any bar fighter.  America has never been diplomatic, temperate, and considerate.  We have always felt exceptional and entitled. American politics have never been genteel affairs.  The campaigns of Andrew Jackson and John Quincy Adams were notorious.
Adams’ supporters hurled accusations at Jackson’s wife, Rachel, and questioned their marriage. Critics claimed the couple’s marriage some 40 years earlier had occurred while Rachel was still married to her first husband. Opponents labeled Jackson an “adulterer,” and called his wife a “bigamist.” It marked the first time a first lady’s moral character had been scrutinized so publicly. The Jacksons said Rachel’s divorce had already been finalized before they married...
Jackson countered by claiming that Adams, while working as the Russian ambassador, had procured an American girl for the Russian czar — a baseless allegation, but calling the sitting president a “pimp” was certainly a bold move (listosaur.com)
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Grover Cleveland and James G. Blaine went at it in the same vein:
Democrat Grover Cleveland seemed to have the advantage in the months before this presidential election, but in July 1884, allegations arose that Cleveland, a bachelor, had years earlier fathered a child out of wedlock. Republican James G. Blaine’s supporters gleefully took advantage of the scandal, chanting, “Ma, ma, where’s my Pa?” at campaign rallies.
Cleveland admitted he had paid child support to a widow, Maria Halpin, even though he alleged she had been involved with several other men at the time. However, Halpin told newspapers, including the Chicago Tribune, that Cleveland had sexually assaulted her, and that after she gave birth to a son, Cleveland had it forcibly removed from her custody and placed in an orphanage. Halpin was then committed to an insane asylum, although she was later released (op.cit.)
The campaign between John Adams and Thomas Jefferson set new lows.
[The Presidential] race was full of mudslinging accusations and character assassination. Adam’s supporters accused Jefferson of sympathizing with the Southern slaves whom he wished to emancipate — going so far as to say he maintained a “Congo Harem” at Monticello. In one over-the-top condemnation, Yale President Timothy Dwight said that if Jefferson were elected, “Murder, robbery, rape, adultery, and incest will be openly taught and practiced. The air will be rent with the cries of distress, the soil will be soaked with blood, and the nation black with crimes.”
The accusations continued right up until the election. One Jefferson supporter likened Adams to a “hideous hermaphroditical character, which has neither the force and firmness of a man, nor the gentleness and sensibility of a woman.” Adams’ supporters countered with a leaflet calling Jefferson, “a mean-spirited, low-lived fellow, the son of a half-breed Indian squaw, sired by a Virginia mulatto father.” Jefferson’s camp claimed the president reportedly planned to smuggle London prostitutes across the Atlantic to satiate his sinful tastes.
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There is nothing new about gross humor at the expense of others.  The ‘joke books’ of the supposedly enlightened 18th century took advantage of every disability, misfortune, and bad luck. The jestbooks and their sexual humor and rape jokes were popular with men and women alike.
Women not only consumed but energetically produced jokes about victims enjoying rape or being humiliated in court. Jestbook assumptions are central to works like Lady Mary Wortley Montagu’s ‘Virtue in Danger’, a sarcastic ballad on a real-life society case of 1721, and to the startling premise of Eliza Haywood’s novel of 1727, The Lucky Rape. Decades later more decorous women writers were still using the basic tropes of misogynist humour. Comic scenarios about scheming maidservants and bogus chastity were routine in the novels of Charlotte Lennox, who once acted on her feeling that hussies were there to be beaten, and had to defend herself at the Middlesex Sessions.
Finally, even disabled writers enjoyed writing humorously about their deformities or disabilities:
Some of the most hostile mockery of disability came from writers who struggled with it themselves. Fresh from a stage lampoon of Swift’s one-legged bookseller George Faulkner, the actor-playwright Samuel Foote fell from his horse and lost a leg, provoking sly jokes from Johnson about ‘depeditation’ and ironic consolation poems with missing (metrical) feet.
Foote replied with a new comedy, The Lame Lover, and took the title role, Sir Luke Limp, himself. Lady Mary Wortley Montagu, disfigured by smallpox, traded insults in print with Pope, whose body – or, as she put it, ‘wretched little Carcass’ – had been stunted and twisted in infancy by Pott’s Disease. Christopher Smart, whose Jubilate Agno memorably deplores the vilification he received as a supposed lunatic – ‘For silly fellow! silly fellow! is against me’ – was an indefatigable collector and disseminator of deformity jokes.
There are at least 1000 citations on humor theory, but a sampling of them show that there is general consensus of the obvious – we laugh at deformity because we are glad we do not look that way, find deformity a caricature of normal life and therefore funny, and have a natural tendency to marginalize ‘the other’. A simpler theory is that some things are simply funny:
“It seems surprising that people laugh at the misfortune of others. For instance, a man is walking down a winter street, slips, wildly flails his arms, and finally falls. The reaction of the spectators is varied, but after the victim stands up and sheepishly brushes the snow off his clothes, the majority of the on-lookers smiles or laughs – the incident turned out to not be serious. The fall itself turned into a comical event, breaking the monotony of the rhythm of everyday life.”
If any of these theories are accurate, then we are no different from the citizens of the 18th Century.  We moderns all laugh at the same deformities, differences, and distortions of life as our ancestors.  We just do it internally instead of externally.  Most of us tell the ‘racial, ethnic, and dumb jokes’ referred to above, but save them for friends.  Given the times, we are less likely to tell the longer joke (“A woman and a dwarf walked into a bar….”) and give offhanded one-liners; but they are still jokes ‘at the expense’ of someone else.  Most of us will have to admit that it feels good, in the current atmosphere of Political Correctness to tell these jokes, make these cracks, and laugh at them.

Image result for images movie freaks

Ah, say progressives, this may be true but it is right?  Have we not moved beyond such ignorance and insensitivity?  Are we not on a positive trajectory a route to a better society without discrimination, insult, and mockery?

Of course not.  Human nature and the psychological constructs which preserve it are hardwired and permanent.  Igor Krichtofovitch (Humor Theory 2005) observed:
Don’t most of us experience intense euphoria when a well-placed joke puts our opponent in a funny, unfavorable, frequently demeaning position? Moreover, to do this it’s not at all necessary to demonstrate your real mental superiority. The power of the joke is that it does not necessarily have to be well-argued. Its purpose is to psychologically elevate the joker over his rival, and to place the latter in a foolish position. An important and irrefutable observation to which we will refer many times is the fact that the joker and his target perceive the joke, especially a particularly offensive one, entirely differently. The victim, as a rule, is not up to laughing. And this once more speaks to humor being a type of a weapon in the battle for social status.
According to the theory of psychoanalysis, in certain situations, humor and its derivative laughter play to the aggressive behavior of groups. S. Freud noted that for the tendentious humor, three persons are needed: first, someone who uses laughter (wit); second, a target for aggression; and third, someone who receives the goal of laughter (wit) - the extraction of pleasure (‘I’ and ‘It’).
Donald Trump is popular because he is unreconstructed.  His background is human nature personified – aggressive, territorial, punitive, and self-interested.  His character is that of Hollywood, Las Vegas, and the streets of New York.  His personality is that of Freaks, High Noon, and The Devil Wears Prada. He says what we think - not the unwashed ignoramuses ridiculed by the progressive Left but uncowed American brutalists who are no different than our Enlightenment ancestors and their great, great ancestors.

Finally, and about time, America has an American president who represents us.  Culture is always more important than politics – one is permanent, the other passing; and Donald Trump is as crude, gross, and insensitive as the rest of us.  We have created a fantasy of propriety and good taste.  We only think that Pablo Casals and Robert Frost and Camelot represent us; or that the grace and Hollywood glamour of the Reagan White House reflect our sentiments; or that the patrimony and WASP heritage of the Bushes are in our historical interest.

What we now realize is that Donald Trump is one of us; and no matter how much the European Left complains or how many American progressive cavils become headlines, we are like him.  We want his yachts, his runway wife, his beauty queen escorts, his mansions, jets, and getaways.  More than anything we want to be freed from the newly-imposed yoke of political sanctimony, political correctness, and a corralling of our basic, although rough and unschooled, instincts.

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