It is the middle of June here in the Florida Panhandle and the day promises to be clear, hot, and muggy. The house is quiet except for the gentle hum of a few fans and the harmonious inhaling and exhaling of my sleeping wife. My chores are mostly done, and I’m trying to figure out what to do with the day that will be productive. Not coming up with any great answer I’ve chosen to write down the random thoughts that rattle around inside my head.
Humor – within the nature of laughter is an underlying cruelty. We laugh at others; their foibles, mistakes and predicaments. If we are self-aware we ultimately can laugh at ourselves. My wife used to get mad at me if I smiled or laughed at church as I watched some young couple struggle with a child, or some parishioner with a unimportant minor mistake. As we move further along the lines of political control and correctness when will humor vanish? Will Rodgers, and Bob Hope are legends because they were able to point out the mistakes and arrogance of the nameless “them” in government. For example, “The only difference between death and taxes is death doesn’t get worse every time Congress meets.” (Will Rodgers)
I grew up near the Catskill Mountains in New York. There was a time when it was called the Borscht Belt, or “The Jewish Alps.” When we drove over to see our cousins; we would pass large summer resorts like Grossinger’s and smaller summer camps like that shown in the movie “Dirty Dancing.” These resorts were filled with first and second generation eastern European Jews seeking relief from the summer heat of New York City. This area was also the training ground for the great comics of the past, men like George Jessel, Jerry Lewis, Mel Brooks, and Rodney Dangerfield. Ethic humor was a staple for them. Today we are outraged at the insensitive nature of the jokes. How dare the Jews make fun of the Poles, or the Poles make fun of the Russians, or the WASPs they found here in America.
If we have reached a point where we are emotionally damaged by some chalk writings on the sidewalk, I fear the death of humor is not far away.
The upcoming election – we in America think of the election as a two-way race. Democrats versus Republicans. We dismiss the alternative parties as amusing sideshows. Kind of like the parsley we sometimes put on the mashed potatoes, or the Lima beans your Mom would put on the plate at dinner. The "big two" used to seek a middle ground for a platform and the Presidential elections generally boiled down to “where you happy with the government, yes or no.” If you were -- the incumbent party generally won, if you were not they lost, (e.g. Carter v Reagan, and Bush v Clinton). On years where there was no incumbent the candidate’s personality, and occasionally political positions were more important, (i.e. Nixon v Kennedy, and Nixon v Humphrey v Wallace).
So here we are in the year 2016, our political tastes and sensitivities have evolved to the point where out of 330,000,000 people the best we could find is a pompous, braggart billionaire with a twitter account and the willingness to say what so many are thinking, and a political opportunist with so many scandals and lies behind her that there is no way to know what she really believes. Of course the east coast media is outraged over the things Mr. Trump is saying, but after setting the foundations for these rants for the past 16 years they have only themselves to blame. Speaking of rants, I am reminded of Aesop’s fable about The Boy Who Cried Wolf.
Today Mr. Trump is being criticized as a racist for this comments about the judge handling the Cohan v Trump and maybe Low v Trump lawsuits. After his comments about the judge’s impartiality (based on ethnic background and membership in a legal group known as La Raza) the charges of him being a racist are tossed out and of course widely carried in the various mediums we use for news. The thing about this is, for those people who support Mr. Trump it really doesn’t matter, and for those people who don’t support him it only serves to inflate their self-righteous indignation. Is he a racist? Probably, but then I would say so is Ms. Clinton.
After seven plus years of the current administration I see the charges of being a racist are so prevalent in this country that it has become the first thing that anyone ever rolls out to counter a position that is contrary to their party line. If you don’t believe climate change is caused by the US and the carbon based fuel industry you are a racist. If you don’t believe the President is doing a good job, you are a racist. If you question whether the Justice Department will actually prosecute the candidate the President just endorsed, you are a racist.
Don’t get me wrong, there is racism in the country. There is a lot of racism, but it is not racism as defined solely as the ability to control a significant part of the population that goes on to say minorities can’t be racists. This is a power seeking corruption of the term that allows people to talk at each other rather than to each other. Those who favor calling whites racist and dismissing the charge against blacks may have had a case for the argument last century but when the President, the Attorney General, and Secretary of Homeland Security are people of color and use race as a decision point for what the Federal government will or will not challenge or defend, I believe the argument becomes moot.
I saw a conversation on Facebook the other day. One of the few where people actually do more than post a picture and the commenters type LOL. Two New Yorkers were talking about the evilness of Mr. Trump and the unsuitability of Ms. Clinton. I assumed in the tone of the conversation they both liked the socialist rhetoric of Mr. Sanders. Both agreed they would “hold their noses” and vote for Ms. Clinton. I am but one voice, but if you have to hold your nose to vote then what does that say about your roll in self-government? Perhaps it is time we started voting our conscience? If you like Mr. Sanders as a socialist, then why not support the Socialist Party of America, they claim to be a democratic-socialist and social-democracy party much akin to what Mr. Sanders has been arguing for? Why settle for a two-party system when there are options?
A final thought: Mr. Trump reminds me a lot of Mr. Clinton, both with huge egos, coming into the election with a number of scandals behind them. Both became their party’s candidate despite the best efforts of those they ran against. In Mr. Clinton's case the baggage did not seem as important to the country as the stalled economy. It will be interesting to see what we think is important in this election.