I am not one who can stand to watch Republican debates. I know the clown car is full to busting, but I can’s stand the idea that one of those narrow-minded, fact-free, duplicitous Bozos could end up being the next president. (Or fascist dictator, when you consider what “fascist” actually means, and what former President Carter has said about the U.S. not being a democracy any more.) If one of those clowns wins it, the true power will once again reside with the unseen ring master, like it was with the rodeo-clown George W. Bush and his secret puppet-master, Dick Cheney. And I pay enough attention to know that Donald Trump was so insulting to women during the debate, that Democrats can pick Beelzebub to run as their candidate and women still won’t vote Republican.
I watched the final Jon Stewart Daily Show instead. Stewart is more liberal than I am and uses a lot more bad words than I ever could, but his humor and politics are far gentler and kinder than anything coming out of the mouths of name-calling conservatives. They uniformly say terrible and untrue things about President Obama and Hilary Clinton. They don’t hold back from calling even their own Senate leader a liar (a la Senator “Slappy Happy” Ted Cruz.and Senator Mitch McConnell). The Donald is a master of the crude and inappropriate slam. Look at the unfounded claims he made against Mexicans and the cowardly way he impugned the honor of Senator John McCain. Jon Stewart mocks them by taking their own actual statements and putting them beside the verifiable facts to show the absurdity of their political beliefs and goals without casting insults. Yes, I love his turtle voice for aping Mitch McConnell, but there is a gentleness to his wit that shows affection for his subjects rather than laying waste to their psyches with crude insults and unfounded accusations.
I had to learn the kind of humor I’m extolling here as a classroom teacher. You cannot believe how fragile the little animals can be when you resort to calling them names. A growing, developing, vulnerable psyche cannot take the random bash and cruel cut the way an adult can (though even an adult shouldn’t have to). You have to learn to be funny by the surprising imagery you use, the comparisons with funny things, and the flat out absurd. And self-deprecating humor is the only kind of insult you can actually get away with. (I even learned that when a student grows to love and respect you too much, even insulting yourself to make a point is out the window.)
Humor definitely has its uses in the classroom. This classroom poster was used both to teach students how to write a quatrain of twin couplets, and also to teach them that classroom discipline was a matter of teaching them how not to be like cockroaches. I am not directly calling them cockroaches. Instead I am telling them that if they choose to use the thoughtless and rather dumb behaviors that are against classroom procedure, they are choosing to be like roaches. Of course, there is always the classroom clown like Steve-O Whoopsadoodle (not his real name, but a name he called himself) who glories in being like cockroaches. You also have to learn to laugh at them politely and give them their few minutes of fools’ fame.
So, to sum it all up, humor is a very useful thing in running the world and teaching things to others. It is why I always go for the joke in my writing. The place I am at doesn’t always have to be the happiest place on Earth, but it is a lot funnier and happier without the cruel and biting insult. (Sorry about earlier, George, you old rodeo clown). And if we can just be a little nicer to each other when we make fun, it might turn out to actually be fun. (You are welcome to find all the gaffs and mistakes I made in the old drawing above. I was still learning my craft in 1980. But please don’t call me names over it. I have had all the blue I can handle for one week. I used up the last of it in this last Paffooney.)