Losing my sense of humor

Here’s what angers me most about the election of Donald Trump. It’s not the ridiculous policies. It’s not the corruption. It’s not the close association with the alt-right. It’s not the thin-skinned tweets. It’s not any of those things.

It’s that I don’t find all of that funny. And I should. Because it is.

I’m losing my sense of humor. This cannot be allowed.

Imagine that someone wrote a satire about a newly elected US President, a businessman with zero political experience. Let’s imagine that the screenplay or play or novel included a montage scene of congratulatory phone calls, from heads of state to the new President-elect. So the Scottish political leader calls, and the new President accepts his good wishes, then mentions how annoying wind farms are. Especially when they block the view at his/my/the President’s Scottish golf course. “Of course,” says the Scottish leader. “We’ll get right on it.” That scene would be funny, right? And then the Argentinian President calls, and the P-E mentions permitting problems the business is having for a skyscraper they want to build in Buenos Aires. Of course, in on those phone calls would be the P-E’s former supermodel daughter, now officially running the various Presidential businesses. Seriously; funny stuff, amiright?

The days after the election, I moped around the house, all depressed. I tried to find solace with my friends–John Oliver, Samantha Bee, Trevor Noah–only they seemed as discombobulated as I felt. It’s like we all forgot how to be funny, or how to laugh. I was heartsick for my country, depressed, close to despair in fact, that somehow America had voted for this orange-face, small-handed, thin-skinned buffoon. And I was angry. I was furious. At everyone and anything. Those losers in Wisconsin, Michigan, Pennsylvania, Florida; especially them.

If Mitt Romney had won in 2012, or John McCain in 2008, I would have been fine with it. Not my preferred candidate, but an honorable man, capable, and a patriot–we could certainly do worse. That’s how I would have felt. Not now. Not this semi-Klan walking dumpster fire. Not this incoherent demagogue.

And that’s funny. My misplaced anger and sorrow and frustration. It’s funny; if I (we) lose my (our) ability to laugh at my (our) selves, then what else do we have?

And so we see Trump’s appointments, the people he’s going to hire to help run his government. And it just gets funnier. Someone who hates public education as Secretary of Education. A more-or-less open racist as Attorney General. Someone who hates Obamacare for Health and Human Services. My favorite is his choice for White House Attorney, the guy who is supposed to be the ethical conscience of the White House. He announced Don McGahn for the role. McGahn was Tom DeLay’s attorney. You remember Trump’s ‘drain the swamp’ campaign pledge? McGahn’s the swamp. Probably the most corrupt attorney in Washington will be the Trump White House’s ethical watchdog.

Elaine Chao was named Transportation Secretary. The headline in Slate’s story pointed out, in tones of shock and surprise, that she’s actually qualified for the job.

All this stuff is funny. I mean, it’s kind of a grim kind of humor. How else do you report the fact that Donald Trump’s closest advisor, Steve Bannon, worked previously as CEO of a website beloved by white supremacists and, you know, the Klan? It’s one of those jokes without a punch line; you just report the facts and you get the laugh.

And it’s hard to laugh sometimes. I get it; it’s hard to find this stuff funny. Our country is falling from the sky, like Slim Pickens at the end of Dr. Strangelove, and there’s nothing we can do to prevent it. Gravity has taken over. But Dr. Strangelove is an amazingly funny movie.

It’s the end of the world as we know it. And I don’t feel fine. But we still have to laugh. We still have to make jokes. Trump may destroy our country. But he cannot destroy our humanity.


2 thoughts on “Losing my sense of humor

  1. Jonathan Langford

    For me at least, it’s hard to find the election funny or take it philosophically because it undermines my faith that people in general and Americans in particular are as good as I would like to believe. I didn’t realize, until it had been taken away, just how much hope I had in the notion that humanity, at least in America, has progressed past the greed, xenophobia, and love of violence that I see reflected (for example) in the history of the Crusades (something I was reading about just yesterday), or the ending-scenes of the Book of Mormon that we’re studying in gospel doctrine, or early American expansionism (including both the treatment of the Mormons and, on some unfortunate occasions, treatments of others by the Mormons).

    Which leaves me wondering: why did I believe all this to begin with? The gospel teaches that goodness requires choice and an acceptance of the gospel of Christ (whether or not we know that this is what we are accepting). I know that I myself struggle to make the smallest gains against my own personal weaknesses. Why, then, should I have assumed that humanity has somehow moved past the very problems that the Book of Mormon tells us are rampant in our time? (See Mormon 8-9.) The answer, I suppose, is that I wanted to believe it.

    Which is not to say that we don’t need to keep our balance, our sense of humor and perspective. I’m just saying that for me at least, it isn’t really about Donald Trump. Rather, it’s about the fact that we elected him, and the kind of rhetoric I saw in the van of that election, and even my own lack of charity at that fact, which also bothers me (though probably not as much as it should). It reduces my ability to think well of others at the very time I need it the most. But then, why should the standard of discipleship be any easier for me than for those Jesus taught in Jerusalem? The test of charity isn’t how to treat our friends, but rather those who we are tempted to view as our enemies. That’s a standard my current reactions tell me I’m still far from reaching.


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