I never wanted to run away and join the circus, and now, God help us all, we live in one. Amidst the three rings of denial, despair, and devastation of our democracy, there are, however, other things happening in the world. Let us consider the wider world before the circus today, just this once, shall we?
In this morning’s New York Times, the always-insightful Jennifer Finney Boylan writes about her 12-year-old self, and learning to play the piano alongside a friend, Jim Wilson. She tells the story of their 12-year-old selves playing “Heart and Soul.” Eventually, the two speak on the phone in the present-day. “Damn,” said Jim. “I’ve missed you.”
My skittery, oh-so-human brain leapt right into back into the circus. Are these senators and representatives 12 again? Is that it? Do they want to go to the game despite the fact that they’ve been grounded? Perhaps it’s around 12 when we learn there are consequences to our actions? Clearly these clowns missed school that day.
Katie Benner and Erica L. Green write: “WASHINGTON — The Trump administration has embarked on an 11th-hour bid to undo some civil rights protections for minority groups, which could have a ripple effect on women, people with disabilities and L.G.B.T. people, according to a draft document, in a change that would mark one of the most significant shifts in civil rights enforcement in generations.”
Several persons of my acquaintance have floated the theory that the circus is actually just a mammoth Look, there’s Haley’s comet decoy to sneaky, underhanded, mean-spirited moves like this one. President Biden will undo it, but can’t the acrobats stop the trapeze?
And another thing: “Rejecting the advice of its scientific advisers, the federal government has released new dietary recommendations that sound a familiar nutritional refrain, advising Americans to ‘make every bite count’ but dismissing experts’ specific recommendations to set new low targets for consumption of sugar and alcoholic beverages.”
As if our mental nutrition isn’t already filled with vitriol, violence, and vehemence, now the same Ringmaster is, you should pardon the pun but I couldn’t resist, weighing in on what we eat?!?! And, God help us all, ignoring what he deems inconvenient science? If I had my way, every single circus animal would bite him.
Bridgerton, the new Shonda Rhimes hit from Netflix, speaks to race and racism in 19th century Britain. “[T]he characters never seem to forget their blackness but instead understand it as one of the many facets of their identity, while still thriving in Regency society. The show’s success proves that people of color do not have to be erased or exist solely as victims of racism in order for a British costume drama to flourish.”
Romance novels and television are a match made in heaven. That Ms. Rhimes would use her Netflix platform to address issues near and dear not only to her heart, but to the hearts of countless others, especially in the face of the summer demonstrations over the senseless murder of George Floyd, is a given. And still, the critics carp, “For all its innovations, “Bridgerton” has its own blind spots. I found it strange that it is only the Black characters who speak about race, a creative decision that risks reinforcing the very white privilege it seeks to undercut by enabling its white characters to be free of racial identity.”
As a rule, most “artists … get paid only once, on the initial sale. The end result is a carpet [or a sculpture or a painting] that costs as much as [if not more than] a Honda Civic. It doesn’t have to be this way. Out in Vancouver, the painter Jean Smith is quietly subverting art-world economics, $100 at a time.”
At age 56, she decided to become an artist. She sells each portrait, painted from images on the Internet, via Facebook, usually within five minutes of posting them. By subverting the art economy, she has found a way to make it thrive, and to give back. “In four years doing it the hard way, Smith has set aside $200,000 to put toward starting a progressively minded artists’ residency. All artistic disciplines are welcome. The only rule is that everyone’s project must intend to change the world.” How glad I am that it’s not only the circus that’s thriving.
Do you see, Beloved? Nothing, but nothing in this life happens without context. There is always a space within which things occur. Lately, ours has been a circus, and not in the charming way of Barnum, Baily, or Big Apple.
This morning The Times’ Editorial Board asked: “[M]ore than 150 Republican lawmakers have signed on to reject the votes of tens of millions of Americans. On what grounds are they taking this stupefying step?”
Other articles answer the question. “In a sense, this is all political theater.” FWIW, I object, on the grounds that this is an abuse of the word theatre. “What they are really objecting to is the fact that Mr. Trump lost.”
We know, we know. Even he knows. So again … we’re doing this … why? Thomas L. Friedman, bless him, to the rescue. He asks what if the coup-plotters, as he calls them, succeeded? His answer:
“I know exactly what would have happened. Many of the 81,283,485 Americans who voted for Biden would have taken to the streets — I would have been one of them — and probably stormed the White House, the Capitol and the Supreme Court. Trump would have called out the military; the National Guard, directed by governors, would have split over this, and we would be plunged into civil war.
“That is the sort of fire these people are playing with. Of course, they know it — which makes the efforts of Hawley, Cruz, Johnson and their ilk even more despicable. They have so little self-respect that they’re ready to lick the shine off of Donald Trump’s boots down to his last second in office, in hopes of inheriting his followers — should he not run again in 2024. And they are counting on a majority of their more principled colleagues voting to certify Biden’s election — to make sure their effort fails. (Italics, Bold, Underscore, mine, as the academics say)
“That way, they’ll get the best of all worlds — credit with Trump voters for pursuing his Big Lie — his fraudulent allegation that the elections were a fraud — without plunging us into civil war. But the long-term price will still be profound — diminishing the confidence of many Americans in the integrity of our free and fair elections as the basis for peacefully transferring power. Can you imagine anything more cynical?” No, Professor Friedman, I can’t.
The moment I read his explanation something slotted into place in my brain. Ohhh, I said to myself, ohhh, that’s what they get. They get to point proudly at their obsequious objection, and be “victimized” by the system — at the same time. I thank you, sir for this epiphany on this Epiphany.
Debbie Thomas of Louisville, KY wrote in her letter to the editor this morning: “It seems to me that it’s time to return to a discussion of term limits for members of Congress. It may be the only solution to the inability of politicians to overcome their own self-interest and do what is best for the country and our democratic system of government.” Where, oh where, is RuPaul when you need her*? Term limits! I ask you, Can I get an ‘Amen’ up in here? [*And before the Pronoun Police get after me, Ru herself has written: “You can call me he. You can call me she. You can call me Regis and Kathie Lee; I don’t care!”]
Mr. Friedman used the word sleazebags to refer to these political posturers. I didn’t know it wasn’t two words. Glad to have that settled. He avows, “If I were the editor of this newspaper, I’d print all of their pictures on a full page, under the headline: ‘Never Forget These Faces: These Lawmakers Had a Choice Between Loyalty to Our Constitution and to Trump, and They Chose Trump.’”
English writer Eley Williams has a first novel out. It’s called The Liar’s Dictionary and is reviewed in today’s Times. The title appealed to me. We may yet come out of this maelstrom of lies with a lexicon. It’s a good idea. Her title appeals to me, really, because as Mr. Friedman recommends, “‘we the people’ need to fight the Trump cult’s Big Lie with the Big Truth.”
I am most happy to report that I can reassure Mr. Friedman and all the rest of us that we are, indeed, we are.
One of the best things about this particular circus, Beloved, is that this circus is a traveling circus. It’s leaving town, as all good circuses do. This one’s departure date comes in 15 days. Yes, yes, I know, we’re counting. Then what’s left will be mounds of sawdust, empty peanut shells, and the occasional souvenir lion-tamer’s whip, with a phrase of diminishing calliope music in our ears.
Hang in there, Beloved, the 20th is coming.
P. S. Anu Garg’s THOUGHT FOR TODAY: Are you a politician asking what your country can do for you or a zealous one asking what you can do for your country? Kahlil Gibran, poet and artist (6 Jan 1883–1931)
Dr. Susan Corso is a spiritual teacher, the founder of iAmpersand, and the author of The Mex Mysteries, the Boots & Boas Books, and spiritual nonfiction. Her essays address the intersection between spirituality and culture. Find out more at www.susancorso.com