Two and a half years ago, I started this blog with hopes of occasionally having something of value to say by looking at the world through counter-intuitive eyes. Occasionally was originally intended to be once or twice a month. Today’s post is #288. An average of one every three days. Some were meant solely to be entertaining. Some were intended to find a hidden kernel of truth in an event or issue others had missed. And some were designed to raise the hairs on the backs of the necks of friends and foes alike.
What seems like a decade ago (actually December 9, 2016), I published an article titled, “On Becoming an UNREAL American.” The point being that my new-found status as an outsider in Trump World resulted in a clearer understanding of the values I would continue to embrace. Nothing Trump could do would separate me from my moral compass. I was wrong.
Saturday night, I looked into a mirror and saw what I had become. That mirror was Michelle Wolf’s speech at the White House Correspondents Dinner (WHCD). If, as some suggest, the point was to give Trump a taste of his own medicine, let me respond. It is just as ugly coming from a comedian as from the supposed leader of the free world. Or from any of us.
Like many, I was infuriated when RNC chairwoman Ronna McDaniel tweeted, “Democrats hate our President more than they love our country.” NOOOOOO! I abhor Trump and all of the hypocrites who defend him BECAUSE I love my country. And I find it hard to believe this is really happening in America. But venomous hatred is not going to solve anything.
I often refer to Ben Bradlee (Jason Robards) warning Woodward (Robert Redford) and Bernstein (Dustin Hoffman) any mistake in their reporting translated into public sympathy for Richard Nixon. I had that same feeling as I watched Wolf eviscerate members of the Trump administration, especially press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders. Was this really possible? Had someone actually made me feel sorry for Sanders?
More importantly, was it necessary? The anger and language was what you would expect more from Lewis Black. Was the comparison valid. Fortunately, we have empirical data to test the hypothesis. Black had the same honor at the 2005 WHCD. And nobody despised the Bush administration more than Black. In a later performance he described being on the dais with vice-president Dick Cheney, who stood in for George W. Bush who was in Rome at Pope John Paul II’s funeral. Black reminisced, “I’ve never felt so close to pure evil.”
In contrast to Wolf’s diatribe, here is what Black told this ensemble of the rich and powerful in his closing remarks.
I learned something from 9/11. Patriotism is important and religion is important in this country. And patriotism and religious without humor is where we run into trouble. It’s why our enemy is as psychotic as they are. They are religious and patriotic. And they are the most humorless pricks on the planet. These are people who wander in the desert year after year and never run into a knock knock joke, which is the price I think you pay for living in tents. But one would have thought at least there would have been a flap flap joke.
For these people to be told that if they kill someone in the name of Allah that they will immediately go to heaven where they will be met by 72 virgins. The fact that these people did not understand that this has to be a punchline to a joke. I’ve been on the earth many years and never once have I met a single virgin.
The comic who was once denied an opportunity to perform at the Kennedy Center because of his language, took this opportunity to explain to his audience why humor, even when politically incorrect, is sometimes the only thing that keeps us sane.
Sunday, I decided to burst the bubble. I skipped the morning talk shows. I did not read a single newspaper article or blog about the Trump White House. For a life-long political junkie, that was no easy task. And then I went out and shot the best round of golf I had in years. Maybe Yogi Berra was right. “Ninety percent of the game is half mental.” Sunday night, I slept better than I had in weeks. Today was the first day without Morning Joe or Stephanie Miller in months.
How many times have we read a book or watched a movie where the moral is, “If you really love something, the best thing you can do is let it go.” The ending of Cast Away immediately comes to mind. In the penultimate scene, Chuck Noland (Tom Hanks) confides in his friend Stan (Nick Searcy) it is time to move on. The film ends on Noland’s encounter with Bettina Peterson (Lari White), the recipient of a long overdue package, and contains the following dialog.
Peterson: You look lost.
Noland: I do?
Peterson: Where’re you headed?
Noland: Well, I was just about to figure that out.
Letting go of something that has been a part of you for so long is never easy. But figuring out where you’re headed is no walk in the park either. But a good spring cleaning of the mind is an excellent place to start.
I will continue to blog when the spirit moves me. But not to reinforce my obsession with where the country is going, but to return to my original purpose. To challenge conventional wisdom in sports, religion, culture as well as policy. What does this shift look like? Let me share an example. Instead of chastising evangelicals for giving Trump a “mulligan” on Stormy Daniels, maybe it is better to remind them others deserve a “mulligan.” In Florida this November, there is a constitutional initiative (Proposition 4) to restore the right to vote to felons who have paid their debt to society (prison and/or fines). Isn’t it time for these people to “tee it up again” as full-fledged citizens? If the evangelical doctrine includes the belief “sin is redeemable,” we ask every evangelical to join us in demonstrating their compassion by voting for Prop 4.
For what it’s worth.