Sheets of Privilege

I’ve watched Tina Fey downing a sheet cake while she excoriated Trump and the white supremacists at Charlottesville EIGHT times so far – and counting. It’s the only thing that’s made me laugh in quite a while.

You’ve probably seen her now viral appearance on Thursday night’s summer edition of Saturday Night Live Weekend Update – the one where she called the neo-Nazi man boys “chinless turds,” referred to Ann Coulter as “yard sale Barbie,” and countered Trump and his supporters with “who do you think drove that car into the crowd – Hillary’s emails???”– as whipped cream and all kinds of other carbs came pouring inside and outside of her mouth.

If you haven’t – here. And you’re welcome.

Sheetcaking, as she called it, is one answer to the post-racial right wing racism (and all kinds of other isms) that is now sweeping our country thanks to the campaign, election and reign of our first bull-in-the-china shop Electoral College POTUS – Donald J. Trump – or Donny John – as Ms. Fey more aptly derides him and his cheaply made real estate.

Still, however appealing it feels to gorge oneself on sweets and carbs in response to the upside down view of the world that Donny John and his white supremacist followers espouse – it is by no means the ONLY response.   It is the comedic response of 2017 so far and, as in any great satire, should not be taken as an absolute. It is wish fulfillment and is borne out of anger, frustration and a penchant for mouthy snideness that many of us “ethnic types” prefer.

It is the contemporary version of the fictional Isaac Davis’ cocktail party retort in 1979’s Manhattan after he incredulously mentions that he’s heard Nazis may actually be marching in New Jersey.

We should go down there and get some guys together, get some bricks and baseball bats and really explain things to them.

Even when one guy counters that there is a devastating satirical op-ed piece in the (NY) Times on the subject, Isaac counters:

Well, a satirical piece in the Times is one thing but bricks and baseball bats really gets right to the point.

Let’s be honest. There is no ONE way to battle the lunacy that is now overtaking our nation. On Saturday morning, I woke up to find that two dozen Nazi white guys marched in downtown Boston but 40,000 people showed up in solidarity to counter the hate-filled rants of a crowd that had mostly dispersed by the time they had arrived.

#BostonStrong

That doesn’t account for the tens and thousands more who were home sheetcaking, talking to their neighbors, exchanging kind words with people of other religions, skin colors or sexual persuasions, or perhaps frequenting ethnic businesses and organizations that didn’t share the world view of the Charlottesville chinless turds.

The Electoral College POTUS response to Boston was classic. The first tweet:

A follow-up one several hours later, presumably after a talking to and some human contact:

Still, it begs the question of which protestors he was applauding – the two dozen or the 40,000. Certainly, it couldn’t be ALL of them.

I couldn’t pretend to know what is in Electoral College POTUS’ heart, mostly because I am sure he doesn’t even have o….well, skip it. Let’s not get sidetracked here.

Just have a good scream…. OK I’m good now #dailyrituals

The point is, you can’t believe anything he says in any given moment. Because at any given moment later – meaning five or ten seconds, minutes or hours – he might say exactly the opposite. Sometimes it’s even in the same run-on sentence.

This requires all of us to be especially aware, thoughtful and conscious about our actions as we navigate what the solutions are to our many problems. As a college professor I’ve learned over the years to avoid the word problem and refer to them as challenges. Yet in these tough times and in this particular instance I’d say problems is the more apt term.

21st century compassion

That being said, let’s not pretend that with all of our PROBLEMS we, who were fortunate enough to be born into this country, are not a heck of a lot better off than those born into third-world poverty elsewhere in the world. Even luckier are those of us born here into a higher economic class, or loving families, or, or, or, or…..

You see where I’m going with this.

There is so much chatter right now about PRIVILEGE – who is and who isn’t and how none of us are going to take it anymore. About safe spaces. About real American values and the lack thereof and who has them and who definitely doesn’t.

Yet it always seemed that the one thing we could agree on is that Nazis were bad.

Pretty much sums it up

And yet – Charlottesville showed not even all of us could agree on that. I hear reports from people I know that outside of the coastal cities and big urban areas that people are hoisting Confederate flags, brandishing their weapons to anyone ethnic — or Jewish or gay like me –- just in case they’re thinking that we’re friends or share any kind of values at all. Of course, that could just be what they normally do on a Saturday.   How would I even really know???

Well, certainly choosing to pretend this isn’t happening is not the solution to all this. Nor is Tina urging us to stay home and away from the white supremacist rallies and choose sheetcaking instead. But neither is Isaac Davis’ idea that we all get together to attend the Nazi rallies armed with bricks and baseball bats.   Two of these are extreme answers to extreme behavior that none of us truly knows the solution to. The other one is just plain dumb. I’ll leave it to you to figure out which is which.

Take your time Elmo

As a teacher whose role it often is to reach compromise I would propose that we need to incorporate not only the extremes but EVERYTHING in between. Unlike the multiple choice SAT there is no one correct answer here – except to rule out the dumb choice immediately.

Therefore, if you want to protest at a right wing, Nazi rally – do it. Yes, this is how they thrive and recruit people – by showing all the people like me and you who are against THEM – but that doesn’t mean they shouldn’t be continually confronted for their hate (and vigorously).

But if as Tina suggests, you want to stay home and instead frequent an ethnic business – e.g. a bakery – then that is also valuable. So is donating money, being kind to a right-leaning friend or neighbor, manning a phone bank for a cause or holding your nose and trying to talk about all of this with a relative who you’ve always loathed – or a colleague who seems to have values opposite of yours.   We have to do them all and we need to do it quickly. And don’t think the thought of this thrills me either. Though I vow to do it if you will.

We can figure out better strategies

This week I heard a former Neo-Nazi named Arno Michaelis, who runs something called the Forgiveness Project and wrote a book about his days of white supremacy in his teens and twenties, say that one of the few things that managed to change him was the kindness he was shown by a lesbian supervisor at work and a black co-worker.

Now I’m not saying kindness and money is THE WAY to fight Nazis. But please can we refrain from the now empty post liberal phrase this is privilege speaking when one dares to suggest anything else except the method you’re arguing for? We need it ALL – especially the comedy of Tina Fey.

The only act of privilege is sitting it out entirely.

Elvis Costello & The Attractions – Peace, Love and Understanding

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Laughing Matters

Think of it as a concentric circle that gets smaller and smaller until there’s nothing left. Like the gyroscopes I used to look at when I was a kid. Or the background logo to this tackily addictive sci-fi adventure series on ABC I watched in the sixties – Time Tunnel.

Exhibit A (or the inner workings of my mind)

That’s the number of individuals who know the real facts of what’s going on in the head of the man who resides in the White House’s Oval Office these days.

Unless, of course, you count the number of Russians listening in through the bugs they likely got to plant several days ago when they, and not the American press, were invited to the inner sanctum for the latest in an endless stream of propagandized photo ops.

Did I take it too far?

But I digress.

An angry, ranting, vengeful POTUS, who by all accounts spends more time on his Twitter rants than reading policy books – or on policy in general – and certainly on any type of books in general, which he proudly claims he doesn’t need or have any desire to read – is simultaneously entertaining and scary.

Much like a seminal episode of Big Brother or The Bachelorette. Or a bag of potato chips chased with a super-sized Snickers bar and a Big Gulp.

Solid advice

But are any of the above good for you? Well, one supposes that’s a matter of opinion. Certainly, we can agree it can be fun to indulge.  So perhaps the more benign question to ask is —

Just how entertained do we want to be?

Don’t answer that.

I’m as guilty as everyone. The mere 10-second snippet of “Spicey” being wheel-ied down 58th St. in New York City on his Segway-fueled podium spewing insults made me giggle with delight on a Friday morning. And that was a day and a half before his actual appearance on SNL this week where I could be seen in my living room squealing with delight among friends and family. But really, is it funny???

Sean Spicer Returns to SNL

Of course it is. And isn’t.

Well for me, it’s certainly a lot more entertaining than watching the real thing. Who said it – imitation is the sincerest form of flattery? Let’s correct that. Imitation is infinitely more preferable to the real thing because it’s actually bearable – and anything but flattering.

I am quite aware that the way I laugh at the ridiculousness of the Spicey parody a la Melissa McCarthy and Alec Baldwin’s orange drenched, open mouthed and thick lipped Electoral POTUS, is probably akin to exactly the opposite of what his base supporters scream at with delight. In my mind, that would be at the very least the apoplectic reaction citizens like me have to the many, many regal pronouncements (Note: What else can you call them but royal edicts?) the real 2017 POTUS (Note: No, I DON’T mean Hillary) makes from the actual presidential and/or press podium.

Laughing.. Crying… I JUST DONT KNOW!

EXHIBIT A

Me: Seriously??? So in other words, he lies any time he wants?

Them: HAHAHAHAHAH!!! THAT’S RIGHT. LIKE YOU DID!!! AND HE’S YOUR PRESIDENT, NOW!!!

EXHIBIT B

On Comey’s firing to Lester Holt on NBC:

He (Comey’s) a showboat. He’s a grandstander…In fact, when I decided to just do it, I said to myself, I said, you know, this Russia thing with Trump and Russia is a made-up story…

ME: Showboat??? Is this the 1927 musical or the 1936 film from MGM? What year does this moron live in? Not to mention, he’s firing the guy who’s investigating him!!! How can anyone look at this and think this is okay?

I can’t even #wheretobegin

THEM: HAHAHAHAHAH!!! YOU FIRE THEM ALL, THEY DON’T TOW THE LINE!!!   YOU TELL ‘EM!!!

EXHIBIT C

To Judge (ahem) Jeanine Pirro on Fox:

We don’t have to have press conferences…We just don’t have them, unless I have them every two weeks and I do them myself…I think it’s a good idea…you have a level of hostility that’s incredible and it’s very unfair.

ME: What is he, a f-ckin despot?? What is this, third grade? Not fair???? We don’t have Royalty in this country. He’s not a King!! Unless he’s the Madness of King George. We operate on a free press here. Well, he’ll see!! We’ll go around him. And we’ll f-ckin BRING HIM DOWN!!!! There’s a price to pay for not reading the Constitution. Or not even having one of your buddies from the Gulag explain it to you! You orange, lying road kill sack of crap!!!

THEM: HAHAHAHAHAH!!! HE’S GOT ‘EM! AND HE’S RIGHT! CROOKED MEDIA!! THE HELL WITH ‘EM! WHO’S HE WORKING FOR ANYWAY? NOT THEM!! US!!!!!

This x INFINITY

Just writing this has my heart palpitating. And I don’t know which was worse – spouting my own truths or inventing the reaction from the other side. Certainly, I was equally at ease doing and imagining both. They’ve how long and often they’ve been heard – with no end in sight. He’s been campaigning for almost two years and is still going.  And he’s actually been in office only three and a half months.   Impeachment notwithstanding, how many more do we have do go?

PLEASE…don’t answer that.

There’s not much I know these days but one thing I’ve always been sure of is that humor is as great a release as the truth – which any number of wise people before me have argued …will set you free.

Step right up! #chockfull

Somewhere at the intersection of both is where the answers lie.   I hope that we find them, even one, and when we do, we are able to sober up. No, I don’t claim to know what even one of those answers is.   I am only sure that if or when we find them, even one, it won’t be funny. Or at least, it shouldn’t be.

What’s So Funny ‘Bout Peace, Love & Understanding – Elvis Costello & the Attractions