Reality Goes Over the Top
by Ursula K. Le Guin
Frank Bruni’s article for the New York Times about Stanford University’s decision to accept no students at all for next year’s freshman class was such a keen, accurate picture of the current process of application and admission to prestigious colleges that a great many people took it to be a true one.
This got me thinking about the fragility of satire. When reality overdoes itself, when it gets surreal, what’s left for the satirist?
I tried to think of a headline about Donald Trump that would be unbelievable.
Trump Apologizes For Everything He Ever Said.
Trump Declares Himself Next Dalai Lama.
Trump Relieves Himself on Fox TV Newscaster on Fox TV.
Trump Dumps Wife, Woos Mrs. Cruz.
These are implausible, but are they unbelievable? The last two aren’t even very implausible.
Is anything about the current behavior of the Republican Party satirisable, or has it entered the Trump Zone – you can’t make it weirder than it is?
The behavior of obstinately stupid people is merely boring, but most of us find pigheadedness funny now and then. Pure, silly craziness (Chaplin delicately eating his shoelaces, John Cleese walking) can be very funny. Stupid craziness (the Three Stooges) can be kind of funny. Some people, especially children, laugh at crazy behavior even when it does harm to others. But craziness persisted in to the point of self-destruction isn’t funny and offers very little ground for making fun of it, and the Republican Party is certainly busy destroying itself and as much of the Republic as possible with it.
There is the weird Republican verbal code — “conservative” for reactionary, “center” for far right, the various ways of not saying “black,” the “Welfare Queen,” the “Illegal Voter,” — endless misnomers, lies, and fantasms. The media have so generally accepted this misuse of language as valid that most of the words it degrades have become almost meaningless. Small room for irony there.
And no snarky little kid in the crowd can possibly deny the existence of the emperor’s new clothes as the Congressmen and the Militiamen strut past, shameless in their paunchy nakedness, safely wrapped in the sacred colors of the United and the Confederate States of America.
All the same, we shouldn’t give up. There were satirists behind the Iron Curtain who could be quite painfully entertaining about life under Stalin. I remember in the dark days of a long-ago war the relief of laughing at Spike Jones, “Und ve Heil! (fart) Heil! (fart) right in der Fuehrer’s face!” I admire any contemporary satirist who‘s been able to out-bizarre the bizarre political statements and behaviors encouraged by the Grand Old Party. There are still people among us who know what to do with a candidate who doesn’t know the difference between a presidential election and a farce: you laugh him all the way to defeat.
But that leaves Cruz. What’s scary about Cruz is that there’s nothing funny about him. Can we find anything in him to laugh at? Can anybody even smile at him? If Trump is the essentially harmless nut who thinks he’s Napoleon, Cruz seems to me more like the classic psychopath, the guy “who was kind of a loner but always just seemed like everybody else,” till he got the guns, or the power, and began acting out his unspeakable fantasies.
Jun 21, 2010 – Uploaded by historycomestolife