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The UnCivil War

Bloody Angle Painting

At the time of the Civil War, there were 22 million people living in the North and 9 million living in the South.  That puts the Confederacy at right around 30% of the nation.  Not much has changed in those numbers since that time, as today polls show that Trump’s solid base, the unshakeable, unwavering voters who share his nationalistic and racially divisive ideas, is roughly a solid 30%.  The big difference is that even as the nation is divided along similar emotional fears and political positioning as before, the virus of hate and bigotry is no longer contained regionally but has diversified and mutated into every state of the union, making it harder to rid our democracy of the infection.

Trump’s campaign style and his many pronouncements in office, his bullying, his name-calling, his lying, his dirty mouth, his racial slurs, his embarrassing comments and tweeting rants, all have contributed further to validate these emotional fears in his constituents solidifying as political objectives and have given rise to an openly divided nation, creating the second Civil War, a war of words, “The UnCivil War.”

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Saturday night a new attack was launched by one of the opposition, a well-meaning effort, but misguided nonetheless, as Michelle Wolf took the podium at the Annual Whitehouse Correspondents Dinner to deliver a “comedic” roast of the political landscape in general and Trump and his staffers in specific, notably Kellyanne Conway and Sarah Huckabee Sanders, two deserving notables in attendance.  As these two foes sat silently bearing the insults, America cringed in response, and I found myself siding emotionally with them and not with Michelle Wolf, in spite of my deep-rooted hatred for this pair of lying Trump groupie-sycophants.

What began with Don Rickles as insult comedy, a personal style he perfected, worked for him because the object of his jokes were always people he admired and who were most often close friends. Over the years this type of comedy has been amped up through TV specials known as celebrity roasts, where a team of friends shares insults, crass remarks, nasty stories and embarrassing filthy talk, all fictional, regarding the subject of the roast.  It was never my cup of tea, and while it was very ugly it survived and mutated again.

The Daily Show, back when it was hosted by John Stewart featured several “correspondents” who made this style work for them, most of whom spun off into their own shows successfully. But later, as Trevor Noah took over for John, the show degenerated into a more didactic, “preachy” discourse at the expense of being truly funny, as was the original show.  In this environment, Michelle Wolf found her place.  Her words are more truthful than funny, in a direct way, and since they are largely not fictional, but often most real, they carry the stinging pain of understanding without the humor.  She’s a perverted variant of the Don Rickles school, but unlike Rickles, she is on a mission to politicize, thinking that the real truth cuts closer to “funny” than to “the bone.” She could not be more wrong. It’s too hard to get a laugh when you are inflicting pain on others, even the most deserving. Comedy and sadism don’t mix.

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