Sunday’s Sermon

One of our regular authors presents: “Comedy in the Age of the Absurd: Helping or Harming?”

tiny-trump-meme-robe

It’s an absurd new[s] era, and when faced with the question of “should we laugh or should we cry?” the choice is being made for us. Comedy news outlets (our ever-increasing primary news source) are having a heyday; observing and reporting with an almost glee. They couldn’t make this shit up.

And us? We’re devouring it.

The one to rule them all.

It feels good to laugh. That’s probably why humour is the preferred coping mechanism for dealing with the reality that is Trump. But might getting our news in this way have its downside? If comedy is our news and their business, who’s gonna tell us it’s no laughing matter?

There is certainly an argument for humour as being an effective weapon here,  as it’s clear that Trump can’t tolerate any form of criticism – and what’s more harmful to a man like this than the public buying the notion that he is a Joke on the world stage. He spends an inordinate amount of time reacting to haters with childlike petulance that he fails to see just adds to the comedy.  Perhaps shows like SNL, John Oliver, Stephen  Colbert and the like aren’t just capitalizing on the circumstance, but are here at exactly the right time and doing their duty as commanders of the Army of Comedy that will ultimate cause him to implode. It could. Or it could do the exact opposite.

Because here’s what needs to be taken seriously:

That Donald Trump, Actual President of the United States, is mentally ill. Saying so is not meant to be insulting or inflammatory. It’s to state what is plainly obvious but is being obscured by the sweet panacea of comedy. He displays all the criteria of someone with a serious psychological and/or medical condition that makes him – unfortunately, comically – unfit to be any kind of leader.  A pathological liar; and not on disputable matters, but on facts of which there are images and recordings (of himself too).  And not just occasionally, but constantly. And not after some thought, but reflexively. And not over insignificant things, but facts that matter. A level of emotional control and articulacy that is rarely observed in any mature, stable person, let alone . . .  you get the picture. This is only what shows. Can you imagine?

(And then there’s this, which I consider to be the crown jewel on top of the trash pile of evidence for incompetency which at the same time is a mint example of this laugh/cry coin. For this to even BE, let alone get a pass as the very first broadcast of the official news outlet of the Trump Administration, boggles my mind and reduces me to tears of laughter despite myself. Just watch.)

We can certainly count his overall anti-environment, anti-education, anti-social security (anti-humanity, really) attitude as evidence that he is incapable of considering the welfare anyone outside of him and his. But I’m not so sure if that’s mental illness so much as the natural result of being born and raised in a bubble of extreme self-indulgence that this late in the game is psychologically incapable of being popped. Or is that mental illness too? Is greed evil or illness? And does mental illness imply that his behaviours are more excusable than, say, evil?

Now I’ve realized I’ve gone off track and opened up a can of worms about what mental illness is, and how or if it’s distinct from evil. You all better join in on discussion now.

Personally, I think there are not evil people so much as those with a lack of knowledge of good; and this moral confusion + power + fear of being irrelevant = the path of least resistance, which to a weak mind with strong negative influences can certainly cause evil, easily justified as something other than.

Anyways, my point is that if Trump’s behaviour can be explained by at least Narcissistic Personality Disorder (and possibly untreated syphilis, possible dementia), then he either needs treatment or to be treated like a person with special needs who doesn’t know his own strength.

And we need to stop laughing.

…or do we?

8 thoughts on “Sunday’s Sermon

  1. From Encyclopedia Britannica:

    The classic conception of comedy, which began with Aristotle in ancient Greece of the 4th century bce and persists through the present, holds that it is primarily concerned with humans as social beings, rather than as private persons, and that its function is frankly corrective. The comic artist’s purpose is to hold a mirror up to society to reflect its follies and vices, in the hope that they will, as a result, be mended. The 20th-century French philosopher Henri Bergson shared this view of the corrective purpose of laughter; specifically, he felt, laughter is intended to bring the comic character back into conformity with his society, whose logic and conventions he abandons when “he slackens in the attention that is due to life.”

    [Emphasis added]

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  2. “Wherever there is life, there is contradiction,” says Søren Kierkegaard, the 19th-century Danish existentialist, in the Concluding Unscientific Postscript (1846), “and wherever there is contradiction, the comical is present.” He went on to say that the tragic and the comic are both based on contradiction but “the tragic is the suffering contradiction, comical, painless contradiction.” Comedy makes the contradiction manifest along with a way out, which is why the contradiction is painless. Tragedy, on the other hand, despairs of a way out of the contradiction.

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  3. A mentally disabled person is definitely more excusable from follies than one who is not. But I guess when we say that Trump is a mental character we are using comedy. We want to tell him he is behaving like a mental case, hoping perhaps he reflects; we want to “bring [him] back into conformity with his society”

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  4. As an individual within a body of society, the question as to how to halt such madness that elects such a party is beyond my capacity to act effectively.

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  5. Some thoughts from others here. And here.

    Mental health professionals wrote letters in The New York Times representing both sides of the argument. Thirty-five psychiatrists, psychologists, and social workers argued that Trump is unfit for office. while Allen Frances, who helped write the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders IV, responded by calling out those making such claims as stigmatizing mental health issues.
    Olivia Goldhill sides with Frances on the issue, in a piece for Quartz.
    Dr. Keith Ablow weighs in via Fox News and writes, “Donald Trump is stone cold sane.”
    Sherry Amatenstein, one of the 35 mental health professionals who signed the NYT’s piece, wrote in depth about her feelings on the matter for CNBC.
    For The Nation, Miriam Markowitz shares her take on why politicizing mental health is a mistake.
    Siegel also references this 2011 NYT piece by Drew Westen, which called into question Barack Obama’s passivity when dealing with conflicts.

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  6. As Allen Frances, the chairman of the task force that compiled the “Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders IV” — the diagnostic bible of the psychiatric profession puts it:

    Mr. Trump causes severe distress rather than experiencing it and has been richly rewarded, rather than punished, for his grandiosity, self-absorption and lack of empathy. It is a stigmatizing insult to the mentally ill (who are mostly well behaved and well meaning) to be lumped with Mr. Trump (who is neither).

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