Monday, July 02, 2018

Good books and late-night comedians will not save us from the Trump cult

It was the best of times.

It was the worst of times.

They might be Dickens' best opening phrases, this in "The Tale of Two Cities:"
It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness, it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity, it was the season of Light, it was the season of Darkness, it was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair, we had everything before us, we had nothing before us, we were all going direct to Heaven, we were all going direct the other way—in short, the period was so far like the present period, that some of its noisiest authorities insisted on its being received, for good or for evil, in the superlative degree of comparison only.
The author goes on to tell how an apocalyptic event such as the French Revolution can bring about both noble deeds and The Reign of Terror.

Not a new theme, not even 150 years ago when The Tale of Two Cities was published. It's biblical, right? Humans were born in original sin and can only be saved through God's grace. On the road to redemption, humans joust with perdition. The Ten Commandments fall by the wayside as The Seven Deadly Sins rampage through the countryside.

That's a western cultural view. But all cultures offer something similar. Shakespeare lives on because he offered entertaining portrayals of human folly, ones that "end well" and many that don't. The best literature does the same thing.

Human behavior is terrifying. No end to world events to serve as illustrations. Fiction tries to encapsulate the struggle of good vs. evil without being too doctrinaire or too predictable. It's a challenge. How do you offer solace to your reader when your imagined world tuns to shit? Some prefer traditional romance or cozy mysteries. Literary culture scorns the romance writer and reader. When I worked at  bookstore with other snarky college grads, we snickered at those housewives who bought Barbara Cartland volumes by the number. There were so many of them, all with similar overs and titles, that the readers lot track. "Do you have number 37?" they would ask. "Love's Tender Promise" or is it "Tender Love's Promises?" We usually could send them on their way with the right book. During lulls at the store, we challenged each other to come up with the most absurd romance title. We were so smart and judgmental. We read real books when we had time after working several part-time jobs, full-time employment tough to find for English majors..

Humans are so ridiculous.

When the well-educated, urbane, Barack Obama was president, we thought that the U.S. was on its way to becoming a post-racial oasis bristling with creativity and promise. This may still be true. Or maybe it never was true. Our wit and wisdom did not prevent Trump's rise to power. It will not get rid of him. As much as I like Trump jabs delivered by late-night TV hosts, it will not deliver us from the Trump cult.

That's up to us voters.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

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