Send in the clowns: Scaramucci

When I saw the addition of Anthony Scaramucci to the cast of characters already playing at the White House I was dumfounded. This guy is his name. He is a stock character from the history of performing arts going back to the 16th century. He is the personification of his name!

Trump is truly running a Reality TV Show in the White House, but the most recent addition to his cast is an archetypical character with a long history. Commedia dell’arte in Italy and France was a popular performing art style with companies that traveled from city to city performing stock stories using stock characters each having a stock of “bits” associated with their character known as “lazzi”. We still use these characters today such as “Harlequin” and “Pantalone,” but Scaramouche is the same name you hear in Bohemian Rhapsody by Queen. It is still a familiar character ‘type.’

The stock character from Commedia dell’arte with the name Scaramouche (with guitar above) is known for certain traits. Scaramuccia, or Scaramouch are other spellings of the character’s name which means “little skirmisher.” His character evolved out of Commedia’s ‘Braggart Soldier’ character known as “Capitano” and is a stock ‘clown’ character as well as a ‘masked henchman’ and sometimes a ‘servant.’ He is portrayed as sly, adroit, supple, and conceited. This character migrated over time from Comedia into the Punch and Judy puppet shows. Punch would regularly punch Scaramouche’s pet dog so the dog puppet’s head could come springing off his body.

The purpose of the “fool” or “clown” character archetype in storytelling has evolved out of older Commedia traditions into a character who provides a foil for the actions or comments of the protagonist or other powerful characters in the story. The king has his jester who is vulnerable to abuse but often provides depth and understanding due to his presumed inferior position. The Shakespearian character ‘Bottom’ from A Midsummer Night’s Dream is even named for his lowly status. The clown called Feste in Twelfth Night is one of my favorites. He sings this mockingly somber ode to encourage sexual promiscuity amongst the youth:

What is love? ’tis not hereafter;

Present mirth hath present laughter;

What’s to come is still unsure:

In delay there lies no plenty;

Then come kiss me, sweet and twenty,

Youth’s a stuff will not endure.

The drunken companions he sings to respond:

SIR ANDREW

A mellifluous voice, as I am true knight.

SIR TOBY BELCH

A contagious breath.

SIR ANDREW

Very sweet and contagious, i’ faith.

What is a contagious breath? It is meant to be funny because the fool’s song is a woeful tune with lyrics ignored by the characters listening to the song. The meaning is masked by the style of delivery, but the audience gets it. Who is the real fool here?

Shakespeare made use of historical character types and improved their use in storytelling, they may still seem to be the stock ‘type’ at first but he makes them deeper and more fully realized. This evolutionary advancement of character in storytelling continues to this day. Unfortunately, Trump is playing to the Commedia-Style Reality TV audience who want simple, easy to understand, stock types without subtlety. Anthony Scaramucci is the contemporary blunt character modeled upon his sly, conceited, historical character’s theatrical name. 

By casting his office with ‘types’ instead of professionals Trump shows us a warped agenda. He was upset that Reince Priebus didn’t fight back. He wants a show, man, send in the clowns! Make them laugh, make them gasp, but be sure to distract. The meaning is supposed to be masked by the style of delivery, and the audience is not supposed to get it this time. ‘Dis ain’t no Shakspeer yous know.’

I question the intelligence behind the deception. Sure, the show is being ingeniously cast, toward what end we aren’t told. Stock shtick gets tiresome quickly and it certainly is not the way to lead a country. The novelty of a foul-mouthed clown is short lived; expect it to get real ugly real soon.

Spirit of Positivity

We were so close.

Then came January 20th and the inauguration with its ominous speech from Hell.

There was no ‘shining city on a hill,’ no one was ‘having a dream,’ there was no “What can I do for my country?’ instead there was: ‘American Carnage,’ obscure references to an “us” that seemed to  be someone else, and a promise that certain members of a religious group:

we will eradicate completely from the face of the Earth”.

I started to write a positive post here but it’s already gone astray, sorry. I’ve been thinking about the future and how to remain positive about it. When I first moved to the Island of St. Croix I saw bumper-stickers saying, “Positive is how I live.” I automatically thought it was about having HIV and taking proper care of themselves, but I saw the phrase everywhere, it was on way too many t-shirts and store-fronts for that. Turns out it is a non-profit effort to give local children a useful attitude toward the future and prepare them for success in their lives. How Cool!

A friend of mine volunteers her time in the library at a local elementary school. When Trump was elected her students asked if that meant they would have to go to Africa since they have dark skin. How positive can life be if that question is on their minds?

Some things are beyond my control, so I’ve decided to look on the bright side of life. I’m tired of being depressed and anxious about the future so Positive is how I will live. I have many reasons to be positive. For example, my home is well above the 17’ rise in sea level predicted within the next 30 years. We checked the FEMA tsunami prediction maps before purchasing the property. The projections were made with existing water levels so, adding another 17’ above that puts us in…Oops, did it again. Stay positive!

We’re putting skylight windows in to brighten the interior of our home, a generator for the frequent power outages, and glass windows instead of screens and storm shutters that will help with rust and mildew. I’m going to stop right here lest I venture into less-than-positive areas like the corner of the bedroom that seems to be separating from the rest of the house, so I won’t even mention that in the spirit of positivity.

I’m volunteering for the PRIDE events celebrated in September here. A large chunk of the local gay community on this isolated island is still living in the Boys In The Band era of the 1960s while the ex-pat gay community is loud and proud and a big part of the development of the West End of the island. My task is to bridge that gap between the closeted crowd and the loud and proud crowd with a party for our allies during PRIDE Week. The theme is “Harmony.” I know it’s going to take more than just one event, but this is a positive with no downside. We’re here, We’re queer, We’re allies, Let’s have a party together, so we all can get used to it.

No cynical ending to this post guys, I’M POSITIVE!

https://www.stxpride.org

Rules of Acquisition

Stephen Fry spoke in an opinion piece for the NYT  about the importance of a monarchy and how we in the US might attempt such a thing: “But ritual and pageant, costume and custom are to public life what metaphors are to language; they bring it to life and move it from the abstract to the real.” Fry suggests we elevate someone, anyone to the position of “Uncle Sam” or “Aunt Samantha” to be the US equivalent of the King or Queen in a monarchy. He says that putting on the “show” of a monarchy will make our shared ideals real in the way a metaphor does in language. That sounds interesting although I wonder what commonality we would use to identify the essential “Sam” of our nation.

I’m veering off from what Stephen said now (he also spoke of the need for leaders to explain their actions, etc.) by asking if any common ground exists between the ideology of the Obama era and Trump’s current amorality? My first thought, as elementary as it may be, is, ‘don’t kill other people,’ part of the law of reciprocity, it’s a shared value for everyone. The second item on my list of assumed fundamentally shared values was ‘don’t steal from other people’ but after a second or two I realized Trump doesn’t actually share that particular fundamental value. He doesn’t pay workers for work done. He lies (fundamental 3) and breaks promises (4). He cheats (5) but cheating and capitalism are practically synonyms anyway. He “grabs ‘em by the pussy,” (6) another form of theft that is also: assault, humiliation, demeaning, disrespect, belittlement, male entitlement, and violation. I could go on, but I stopped even numbering because the search for unifying values begins and ends with one – don’t kill! Wait, Mitch McConnell’s health care plan will kill people. That is the end of commonality.

Ladies and Gentlemen there is no value that we hold in common. 

This was too simple, I’m not ready to give up, let’s try a more established set of rules:

The Ten Commandments (modified to be inclusive),

1 Thou shall have no other ideologies before me. Obama’s ideology is to seek the greatest good for all, and Trump’s is self interest – money, ego and golf.

2 Thou shall not make any graven images. Obama preserved vast plots of land and historical locations as national parks; Trump builds gold plated hotels with his name on them.

3 Thou shalt not use the ideology’s name in vain. Obama protects our environment for humanity’s sake and Trump destroys it for monetary gain.

4 Remember to keep the holy days a time for ritual and reflection. Both men play golf but Obama prays introspectively. Trump plays in the temples that bear his name while banning the people whose rituals and reflections he doesn’t comprehend.

5 Honor and get along with thy father and mother. Trump constantly belittled Obama’s parentage as he does the heritage of all immigrants. How does that honor his own parents?

6 Thou shalt not kill people. Trump’s major go-to guys, Mitch McConnell and Paul Ryan are seeing to this. The ACA attempted to prevent avoidable death. “Trumpcare” doesn’t care.

7 Thou shall not commit adultery – “grab them by the pussy.”

8 Thou shall not steal. Already covered that.

9 Thou shall not bear false witness against thy neighbor. Tweeting Trump’s unTruths.

10 Thou shall not covet anything. Like money, attention and hot chicks, or walking into contestants’ dressing rooms?

Well, That was an exercise in futility.

Outside of the Ferengi “Rules of Acquisition” (from TV’s Star Trek series) there is no known code or set of moral guidelines that fits Trump’s behavior. Trump plays by his own set of rules, none of which seem to fit with the ‘Golden Rule,’ the Law of Reciprocity in any way. Here’s a sampling of the Rules of Acquisition: 126 A lie isn’t a lie, it’s just the truth seen from a different point of view,  90 Mine is better than ours, and 144 There’s nothing wrong with charity … as long as it winds up in your pocket. See what I mean?

So, establishing Stephen Fry’s idea of a ‘Sam’ uncle or aunt monarchy would have been perfectly viable during Obama’s era while impossible now. The right wing back then held ‘Judeo-Christian’ values as the foundation of the country, however, now that Trump is almost a saint to the Evangelicals – Christians (in theory at least), God has been replaced with gold. The new Golden Rule is: “Screw thy neighbor and make them pay for it.” Take Mexico and the wall for example.

The right wing spent the eight years of Obama’s administration saying: ‘no’ without clarification of what they would do instead. Now that they have all three branches of government the best they can put forth is a SCI-FI TV show’s farcical metaphor of capitalism run amok? All hail the new Uncle Sam – Trump, the hairy-eared Grand Nagus of Ferenginar.

“But ritual and pageant, costume and custom are to public life what metaphors are to language; they bring it to life and move it from the abstract to the real.” If we did as Fry suggests it would give us a metaphor so ugly that it would force us see just how repulsive and distant from Judeo-Christian values we actually are. No amount of pageant, costume, custom or ritual can hide the vulgarity of the Evangelical hero, Trump. It is time to bring the metaphor to life, to make this abstract real enough for even a Christian to see.

Trumpian Coincidence

Christians who love turning coincidence into evidence of a god should be having field day with this one. An iceberg the size of Delaware just broke off Antarctica at the same time D. Trump Jr spills the beans about collusion with Russia. The first is proof of climate change and the second is proof that Trump is guilty. Both lead to abrupt endings. It’s definitive evidence of God’s displeasure with Trump. Or God’s displeasure with humanity. Or, more rationally, it is the basic cause and effect of nature: “stupid will out.” If you heat the planet up – ice will melt. DUH! If you elect pollution and prejudice to power it betrays itself. DUH! Either way humanity pays the price.