Tuesday, March 10, 2020
Whistling while the world crumbles
The Dow plunges 2,000 points. The scary new plague spreads. The president is still an idiot.
So why do I feel like grabbing a bamboo cane, leaping up so quick the office chair shoots out from under me, holding the cane horizontal in both hands, smiling broadly and breaking into a little soft-shoe, whistling?
Doo, tah-doo, tah-doodily-doo, tah-doo....
Maybe it is the nature of the comedian. What else am I supposed to do? Issue stock advice? Buy low sell high. List sensible health precautions? Wash your hands for two minutes in hot lye. Identify and condemn specific presidential lies? There's one and there's one and there's one. Bad! Bad! Bad!
No, this is a time for pratfalls and pies in the puss. Which can be hard to achieve on the written page. One seltzer bottle is worth a thousand words. But serious times call for unserious measures. Always have. Inmates did joke in Auschwitz, you know (not that they were particularly funny jokes; I've tracked them down. At least not funny today. Much dark political humor that's hard to scan, what with translation and the passage of time. Then again, comedy is always situation specific).
And I say that, knowing that people are suffering. Which is okay, because I'm not making fun of them—those losing big bucks on the stock swoon (and even if I were, heck, I'm among them, so I get the victim's Get-Out-Jail Free card). And while I am not dying of coronavirus, it could yet happen. That could be me in a few months, and I hope if that is the case, I have the presence of mind to pull the oxygen mask slightly away from my face, and rasp at my wife, "You know ... if you'd let me drink myself to death ... I could have been spared this agony."
As for Trump, ridicule is pointless: it bounces off him, and merely puzzles his followers. If you are so lost to reason as to think "Donald Trump" is the answer to, well, anything at all, then what good is satire, high or low, going to do? Not much. It's like shouting Latin insults at plants.
Yes, there is privilege floating around somewhere here. I am not poor, or sick, or directly harmed by Donald Trump, beyond the harm of seeing a nation that I love laid low and shamed, and my fellow citizens, whom I really do try to understand and respect, establish themselves as credulous dupes and groveling lackeys who'll let themselves be defrauded, eyes open, and betray their country if some demagogue throws their particular fixation a biscuit? Or even if he promises to do so then doesn't.
So sure, I can smile at the world falling apart in big pieces, since none of those chunks have hit me yet. One glancing blow and all amusement will drain away. Grim-jawed, I'll join the candlelight vigil in Daley Plaza, wearing a sandwich sign declaring whatever particular wrong lodged itself under my fingernail. I guess that's human nature.