As usual, President Donald J. Trump has said something that deeply annoys me. I tried to resist making the whole column about what Trump said, so I looked around for anything else in the news I could grasp at and found a headline that quotes Helena Bonham Carter saying kissing Woody Allen is like kissing the Berlin Wall: a statement not only about Woody Allen, but also inherently Woody Allen-esque. Tasked with kissing him for a 1995 movie scene, something must have rubbed off.
It was a little surprising to see anything about Woody Allen in the news at all, because of his ongoing cancellation. I found myself wondering who might ever be cast as Bill Cosby’s wife in a movie. Phylicia Rashad again?
Random thoughts lead to more random thoughts.
My first LP album was not Bill Cosby’s debut album. I think that was my fourth. The first was definitely Dick Gregory’s “In Living Black and White.” He kissed a piece of fried chicken. The second was “The Button-Down Mind of Bob Newhart,” and the third was probably “The First Family,” a comedy album that poked fun with impersonations of JFK and family and administration, which was very popular until November ’63, and then suddenly it was never heard from again.
I never bought a music record until I was about 30, and when I did it was more or less under pressure. “You shouldn’t listen to comedians all the time. You need music. It will round you out.” I always figured I got enough of that from transistor radios and elevators. Why do I need rounding?
To me, growing up in the 1950s and 1960s was all about bad news interrupted by comedians, to a changing musical background. It started out with the swing and Bing Crosby, shifted to Perry Como, then Little Richard, and then it was all over the map and relentless and I didn’t have to pay attention because it never stopped, even if I wanted it to. You couldn’t shop at a department store or eat in a restaurant without hearing the currently approved people’s music.
I saw the bad news as an essential part of my life. It was the foreground. The comedy was commentary. Sometimes there was exegesis. I read James Reston Sr. and William F. Buckley Jr. Music was background for me.
For other people, the bad news was apparently the background, and the music I was largely ignoring was the foreground. There’s no accounting for obsessions, I guess.
Speaking of people for whom the bad news must have been the background, I’m slowly getting to what Trump said to annoy me.
Trump claims our schools aren’t teaching U.S. history properly. They’re telling kids way too much about slavery and oppression and civil rights movements and not enough about our great patriotic history.
He wants to create a 1776 Commission that would develop a “pro-American curriculum that celebrates the truth about our nation’s great history” and teach students about the “miracle of American history.”
When you look into the details, it’s pretty clear that historical threads like that whole civil rights movement thing are not what he means by “pro-American history.” That’s anti-American because it isn’t incessantly positive and incessantly white. It’s fake history that suggested something involving white America needed fixing in our lifetime.
As a clear dig at people calling for a re-evaluation of our assessment of slave-holding Founding Fathers, Trump has made a point of seeking to add a statue of a Delaware signer of the Declaration of Independence — and owner of 200 slaves — to the National Garden of American Heroes.
Meanwhile, Bill Barr, our nation’s attorney general — and he’ll never let us forget it (“I‘m in charge of all national prosecutions; it’s my job, not yours”) — has said that the COVID-19 lockdowns are almost as bad as slavery. It’s like “house arrests.” Massive, nationwide house arrests.
Do you hate the ankle bracelets as much as I do?
In keeping with his call for only positive, pro-American history — history that doesn’t linger on the overt oppressions within our borders — Donald Trump will necessarily call for a prohibition on teaching about the recent COVID-19 lockdowns. “Nobody was told to stay at home but for necessary trips, such as to the market or to their doctor’s office or walking their dogs. There was no oppression to dwell upon there. In fact, as far as you kids need to be concerned, it didn’t happen.
“Now think about how great George Washington was,” is what he’d have to say.
Dr. Wes Browning is a one time math professor who has experienced homelessness several times. He supplied the art for the first cover of Real Change in November of 1994 and has been involved with the organization ever since. This is his weekly column, Adventures in Irony, a dry verbal romp of the absurd. He can be reached at drwes (at) realchangenews (dot) org
Read more in the Sept. 23-29, 2020 issue.