• I didn’t see this Craig Ferguson monologue when it aired way back in 2007, but someone recently linked to it way down in the replies of a Twitter thread. It holds up well and remains a lovely thing.
This is an example of what we might call a “personal testimony.” It’s also an example of another thing that my people like to describe as “one beggar telling another beggar where to find bread.” That is to say it’s an example of a person extending grace to others because he recognizes that he has received such grace, and that he relies on it himself every day.
If you don’t or can’t watch that full video, Ferguson begins by apologizing for slipping into the temptation of sometimes using comedy to attack “vulnerable people” — people who seemed broken or in pain, people who were falling apart. “I think my aim’s been off a bit recently,” he says.
Comedy, Ferguson says, must have “joy in it,” and that only comes from punching up, from “Attacking the powerful people. Attacking the politicians and the Trumps and the blowhards. Go after them.”
This, again, was from President’s Day 2007 — 11 years ago when no one (in this country) entertained any serious thought that a blowhard like Trump might one day be a president. So why did he mention Trump by name? Because in 2007 — as in 1997, and 1987, and 2017 — “a Trump” was already shorthand (pun intended) that everyone understood to refer to a pompous, foolish, pampered, ridiculous person who trampled on others while indulging himself in every decadent luxury and forcing others to clean up his prodigious mess. That is what “Trump” meant, what he symbolized and represented and exemplified to all the watching world.
This was not a controversial opinion in 2007. It was not a partisan opinion. What changed in 10 short years? Not Trump himself. He remains as ignorant and buffoonish and predatory as ever, but a third of Americans have decided he is now their buffoon. And their Caesar. And so here we are.
• Here’s a year-old article about an even older — eons older — sexist term: “What It Really Means When You Call a Woman ‘Hysterical’.”
“We should understand that diagnosing people with hysteria has a long, complicated, and dark history,” Alison Espach writes. “It’s the history of authoritative men pitting a woman against her own mysterious, unruly body, a body that disqualified her from positions of power and a general sense of autonomy.”
The word is an ancient slander conveying the idea that all women are untrustworthy because their bodies drive them mad — that the fact of their womanhood makes them emotionally unstable, and incapable of the kind of rational thought that would allow them to govern themselves rather than being governed by men. (Espach’s sketch of the term’s long, ugly, and sometimes lethal history is worth reading in full. Satanic baby-killers show up more than once, as always.)
The word was invented as a pretext for the contemptuous dismissal of women’s agency. That is its function and its purpose. It is what the word means and what the word does.
So it was either inexcusably dim or sleazily disingenuous for Sen. Ben Sasse to use that word three times during the recent Senate hearings on Supreme Court nominee and serial perjurer Brett Kavanaugh. Sasse was apparently attempting to explain that his belief that women cannot be trusted was not motivated by misogyny. It was unwise and unconvincing for him to try to make that case by employing a term that explicitly discounts, dismisses, denies and diminishes the humanity of every person with a womb. Sasse wound up telling us what he really thinks and believes. He was accidentally honest.
Ben Sasse loves every bill Donald Trump signs. He loves every judge Trump nominates. He loves every regulatory repeal Trump makes. He just doesn’t like Trump’s tweeting.
• Garry Wills wants to see even more forms of “resistance”:
Vote, of course. But there is no reason to think that voting is the sole allowable form of resistance. Even those who thought Prohibition unjust were energetic and imaginative in opposition to it before it was legally abolished — in fact, the legal outcome was caused by the opposition. That was a minor matter compared to the dictatorial steps constantly being taken by Donald Trump — and he chafes that he is not able to take more of them.
The key word here is “imaginative.” Vote. Get out the vote. Get out the up-until-now non-voters. March. Sing. Keep your members of Congress on speed dial. Sit. Kneel. We need to do all of that, but we also need to come up with something new. Because we’re up against something new.
• Missed this last month, from Oregon Public Broadcasting’s Amelia Templeton, “Will Rezoning Portland’s Manufactured Home Parks Help Save Them?” Seems like a positive step to provide greater stability for the residents of manufactured home communities in the city.
Kudos to Templeton for this neatly executed narrative correction:
Park owners oppose the proposal.
“Any time you have restriction, it reduces the interest in investment,” said Cory Poole, a board member of the Manufactured Housing Coalition of Oregon.
… Poole said that it’s rare for parks in Portland to close and get redeveloped as something else, in part because of existing state laws that protect park residents.
Portland has lost 44 mobile home spaces to park closures in the past two years.
“Rare.” That not only establishes the facts of the matter, but does so in a way that allows readers to measure the trustworthiness of the park-owners’ coalition.
• The title for this post comes from Ruston Kelly’s “Faceplant,” which tells a similar story to that Ferguson monologue above.