Laughing Through the Trump Era – The New York Times

Posted: December 23, 2019 at 10:44 am


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I have two answers to this case against laughter.

The first is a rejection of its final premise: Trump has indeed hurt vulnerable people, but between the leaven of incompetence in his cruelty, his rejection of some of the disastrous ambitions of his predecessors and a certain amount of fools luck, his administration is arguably responsible for fewer human tragedies so far than more high-minded, less personally degraded presidencies.

And I dont just mean to reference George W. Bush and the Iraq war here. To return to the subject of my last column, in President Barack Obamas first few years in office about 1,500 American soldiers and thousands more Afghans died for a futile and dishonestly justified campaign. If laughter was permissible while that deadly folly was transpiring (mostly out of the public eye), its probably O.K. to laugh at our situation now.

[Listen to The Argument podcast every Thursday morning, with Ross Douthat, Michelle Goldberg and David Leonhardt.]

The second answer, meanwhile, is a mild suggestion that a little more laughter might actually be good for the anti-Trump Resistance. In particular, anti-Trumpists might be a touch more effective if they could recognize how humorlessness and constant self-important dudgeon frequently helps the Trumpian cause, by setting up the dynamic I just sketched in my movie pitch where the country is asked to choose between two kinds of folly, one squalid and corrupt but the other pompous, insufferable and paranoid in its own self-important way.

The latter sort folly is at its worst, not on the far left, but on the establishment center-left and the Never-Trumper center-right, to which I belonged in 2016 and still do, in the sense that I continue to regard our president as unfit for his job and undeserving of a second term. But that belief, it seems to me, should coexist with some self-awareness about the many blunders by the great and good that brought us to this pass, some instinct for how absurd it sounds to write and talk as though the republic dies daily only to be resurrected overnight and slain by Trump anew, and some recognition that when our law enforcement agencies send their G-men to save the Republic from Vladimir Putin, sometimes they dont send their best.

Or to bring things to a finer point: If you couldnt see, long before the Mueller report fizzle or the latest revelations of F.B.I. incompetence, that Comey was a fundamentally comical figure rather than a paragon of old-school American virtue, then you have no business leading a resistance movement against a president whose main political talent is to make his rivals look ridiculous.

At the end of Burn After Reading, the pompous, alcoholic C.I.A.-agent character Ozzie Cox, played with urbane self-delusion by John Malkovich, confronts one of the civilians he believes has tormented and blackmailed him. You represent the idiocy of today, he says. Youre part of a league of morons.

Excerpt from:
Laughing Through the Trump Era - The New York Times

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December 23rd, 2019 at 10:44 am

Posted in Self-Awareness