By Mark McNease
It’s always One Thing or Another … a lighthearted look at aging, life, and the absurdities of it all.
I’ve always been able to identify the lowest points of my life by an inability to find anything funny. My sense of humor is a remarkably reliable barometer with which to gauge my well-being: The less I’m able to laugh at myself and the world around me, the more I’m in need of immediate therapy. Someone needs to talk me off my ledge of despondency. In those dark times I neither smile nor appreciate the smiles of others. I find them grating, in fact, and may even want to wipe them from people’s faces, gently. But then it passes; the clouds reveal a sun that has always been behind them. I appreciate the phenomenon of consciousness again, and find myself engaged in a world that is generally as marvelous as it is overwhelming.
But now? Tonight is the third presidential debate between two historically (no, really, historically) unpopular candidates, and the horror show of the 2016 election promises to provide scares, scowls and gore appropriate to the Halloween season. I’m not going to take sides here. I have a preference, and most people who know me as a progressive, center-left kind of guy, can figure it out. But I think the empirical evidence is clear: many people, rightly or wrongly, do not like Hillary Clinton. All the cries of “But wait, what about … !” and “That’s a filthy right-wing smear!” in the world will not change that fact. It’s something I think her defenders are as determined to ignore and deny as Mr. Trump’s defenders are determined to think he’s fit for office. We see what we need to see. What we want to see. We hear, think and speak selectively in ways that shore up our world view. It’s not bad, it’s not good, it’s just true.
So the spectacle of two historically unpopular candidates on a stage in Las Vegas has done what only bouts of severe depression and the loss of beloved pets have previously accomplished: I am without a sense of humor. About the election. About its consequences for my country. About what would normally be something in which to find humor. But there is nothing whatsoever funny about a man who has capped off his ridiculous campaign by assaulting the very foundations of American self-governance – you know, that thing so many thousands fought and died for. There is nothing funny about a woman who could have ended her illustrious career as one of the most respected and highly regarded women in the world. Instead she predictably ran for president, imposing her sky-high unfavorables on the country and making sure younger generations did not have a voice as they shouted anyone’s name but hers.
I don’t want to watch the debate tonight, and not just because the first two were not in any way recognizable as informative debates. I don’t want to hear Mr. Trump’s madness or watch his physical threats as he stalks the stage, doing his best to keep the focus on him even when he’s not rambling incoherently. I don’t want to watch Hillary smile that forced smile of hers, knowing it’s not her fault because everyone demands a woman smile (have you seen Trump smile once? The smirk doesn’t count).
My hope, because life is truly only bearable with hope, is that I’ll laugh again. The country will laugh again. And sometime in the coming months the fever will at least have broken and we can all get on with America.
Mark McNease is the Editor of lgbtSr, a website “where age is embraced and life is celebrated.” He’s the author of the Kyle Callahan Mysteries, co-editor and publisher of the anthology Outer Voices Inner Lives (Lambda Literary Award finalist), and the co-creator of the Emmy and Telly winning children’s program Into the Outdoors.