- CRITTER TALK
- NEWS I FIND INTERESTING
With that wonderful sense of humor that is only his, my President leads his supporters in laughter.
I miss my elderly friend.
It has been years since she died. Her own final years were a sort of sacrament to emotional pain. I saw it at the earlier funeral as we honored her husband. They had been with each other longer than I had been alive. She managed to keep things together at her husband’s wake, for the most part. The briefest flash of fear and grief in her face has stayed with me ever since.
But painful life went on for her. I drove her to and from nearby places as her age took its toll.
Occasionally, she would smile. For the remainder of her days on earth, I never saw her laugh.
At first, I made the obvious assumption. It had to be the grief, the agony everlasting at the loss of her one lifetime partner. Only in retrospect did I see another possibility.
At gatherings after worship service, when someone told a joke or relayed some comedic situation, she first appeared just little lost, then would smile vacantly. I attributed it to her growing confusion at most everything. Alzheimer’s was eating at her cognitive abilities.
Only once did I hear her attempt to respond in kind to a gentle teasing jibe. She answered, surprisingly, with a course insult. Those around her pretended not to hear, writing it off, I suppose, to age and dementia.
I wonder now if my friend ever understood humor. She knew what it was, of course, after a fashion. She knew that others enjoyed it. Her wan sort of participation may have come from an attention to social cues. Others laughed, and so she knew to smile.
It occurred to me a year or so ago that my President has something in common with the friend I still miss.
I do not recall any news clip, any televised appearance, any series of photos, anything that includes Donald Trump engaging in laughter. He smiles every once in a while. Even then, it is a grin of triumph, a smug appreciation of victory in his own zero-sum world, the smile of a winner who has forced someone else into losing.
In 2011, Donald Trump saw his birther attacks on Barack Obama vanish as definitive documentation showed Presidential citizenship. Barack Obama was not a secret immigrant, an illegal President. The Trump birther campaign had been a desperate venture at best. Those holding to what we once called racial conservatism were bitterly offended at the election of a black man. There was something wrong with the presidency because … well … there just had to be. The disappointment, when President Obama turned out to be completely legitimate, had to be profound.
At the Correspondent’s Dinner in the year 2011, President Obama did not rail against Fake News or corrupt accusations. He did not invent new nicknames for his attackers. He did not reveal the, as yet, classified information that would be formally announced the next day. He did not boast about what was then a secret.
He just poked fun at Donald Trump while Trump sat in the audience. The President spoke in some detail about a sales failure on The Apprentice. As the audience laughed at the gentle humor, he praised Mr. Trump for his acute business insight.
…you didn’t blame Little John or Meatloaf, you fired Gary Busey.
A journalist sitting nearby described Donald Trump’s reaction.
…he sat perfectly still, chin tight, in locked, unmovable rage.
The rage was barely contained as the President, with mock praise, contrasted responsibilities.
And these are the kind of decisions that would keep me up at night.
That contrast became even more apparent the next day as President Obama made the announcement:
…the United States has conducted an operation that killed Osama bin Laden, the leader of al Qaeda.
In retrospect, it seems clear that Donald Trump could not distinguish between those humorous jibes and what he seemed to see as bitter insults. As far as he could tell, he had been subjected to an evening of vicious attack.
In 2016, Donald Trump was campaigning to become President Donald Trump. He and opponent Hillary Clinton spoke at the traditional Al Smith Dinner, hosted by Catholic Archbishop Timothy Cardinal Dolan. Mr. Trump managed to turn a friendly, applauding congregation of clergy into an angry audience, booing him, as he offered what he thought was humor.
Hillary is so corrupt, she got kicked off the Watergate Commission.
He seemed a little surprised as the audience failed to laugh.
How corrupt do you have to be to get kicked off the Watergate Commission? Pretty corrupt.
The crowd did not seem to understand that he was being funny.
Hillary believes that it’s vital to deceive the people by having one public policy…
The booing was unmistakable.
…and a totally different policy in private.
The audience had become a group. The Group became a crowd. The crowd was becoming a hostile mob. He bravely continued.
For example, here she is tonight, in public, pretending not to hate Catholics.
He was bewildered at the angry shouts. He turned toward Hillary.
I don’t know who they’re angry at Hillary, you or I.
I believed him. He really did not know.
I do not remember ever seeing President Trump actually laugh.
But this past week I did see him come close.
At a rally in Florida, he described his efforts to rid America of refugees from other countries, those migrants seeking sanctuary from violence and oppression.
How do we stop these people?
That’s when the hilarity began. A voice came from the audience with the answer:
The audience roared their appreciation as my grinning President played along.
That’s only in the panhandle you can get away with that statement.
And he repeated himself as the crowd shouted and laughed along.
Only in the panhandle.
Appreciation for my President’s humor extends beyond that day’s rally. Several years ago, a State legislator in Kansas made a name for himself during a hearing on the practice of shooting feral hogs from helicopters.
Looks like to me shooting these immigrating feral hogs works. Maybe we have found a problem (sic) to our illegal immigration problem.
He clarified later that it was merely conservative humor. He was just joking.
Some Trump supporters manage to suppress their laughter long enough to sound deadly serious:
What would solve the whole thing on the border if they would just start shooting. Only shoot a couple and they would go home.
Perhaps it is a sort of reversal of roles.
…shooting these immigrating feral hogs works.
It is my turn at bafflement.
Only shoot a couple and they would go home.
Firearms practice using as targets men, women, and children who are running away from danger…
…just does not crack me up the way it does some of my conservative friends.
Many thanks to our friend and partner Burr Deming at FairandUnbalanced.com.