RHETA JOHNSON: Good for arts and grim laughs



A short woman strutted in an enormous sombrero with a brick wall painted beneath the wide brim. A trio with shower caps and clear umbrellas pranced as “The Golden Showers,” carrying signs that read “We’re all being hissed on.” Except the word was not “hissed.”

A group of revelers distributed green lapel ribbons and admonished us all to “Remember the Bowling Green Massacre!” A Truth Fairy used her wand to zap alternative facts.

Trump may be good for the arts.

Mardi Gras morning’s St. Anne parade has a history, since 1969, of being funny, political and daring. It doesn’t roll, it walks. There are no spectators, only hundreds of costumed participants.

This year it set the creativity bar high. The parade began in the edgy, artistic Bywater neighborhood and headed merrily toward the French Quarter. Soon it had more marching Trump jokes than a year of Doonesbury.

Yes, despite his apparent lack of a sense of humor or irony or aesthetics, Trump may be good for the arts. Consider the revival of “Saturday Night Live” and increased ratings for late-night comedians.

In an administration providing so much fodder, comics and artists and musicians have their tools ready. You can’t make this stuff up. And you don’t have to.

In my trade, it’s called “gallows humor.” You laugh to keep from crying.

Sigmund Freud had a run at defining gallows humor. It’s what the oppressed do to ease their own suffering and to undermine the will of the oppressor. “Witticism in response to a hopeless situation” is another definition.

Reporters on deadline use it. Morticians use it. Prisoners use it – remember “Cool Hand Luke”? Jews in concentration camps used it. Soldiers use it.

When times get tough, the tough tell a joke. Paint a mural. Write a book. Compose a song.

The material is there for the picking.

When federal dollars could be spent on so many useful things, we’re looking for at least $15 billion to build a wall. George W. Bush, of all people, is defending the press. The president of the United States refuses to release his tax returns. The White House is too shabby a residence for the First Family.

Not only can you not make this stuff up, if you have a creative brain, you can’t ignore it. The hard part is settling on what to satirize, draw, sing about.

The poorest Trump cabinet member is worth around $800,000. Congressmen with great federal health insurance are doing their damnedest to kill the only insurance plan millions of their constituents have ever had. The administration is rolling back environmental regulations that have gone a long way toward cleaning up our cities in past decades. In a competitive global economy, we’re talking about killing public education and picking fights with trade partners.

We are laughing all the way to a morally bankrupt nation, one that uses race and religion to profile its citizens. One that thinks it is OK for the most senior and disadvantaged of its citizens to lack medicine and basic health care.

I looked up “gallows humor” on Wikipedia. One entry mentioned Oscar Wilde’s last words. When he found himself on his boarding-house deathbed, stone broke and without hope, the writer and wag told a joke.

“Either that wallpaper goes or I do.”

There was a man who could die laughing.

Rheta Grimsley Johnson is a syndicated columnist who travels the country in search of stories, frequently reporting from her native South. Readers can contact her at rhetagrimsley@aol.com.

Click video to hear audio

  • DWarren

    Ms Grimsley Johnson is obviously whistling past the graveyard at the prospects that the Progressive Movement has committed suicide on her watch. The Progressive Democrat Party has veered so far to the radical left since the late 1960s that the American electorate now completely disregards their candidates as too radical, too socialist, too antichristian, and too wacko to deserve the vote of any serious voter in a representative republic. Their national leaders, Pelosi and Schumer, are left over lightweights that coherence and credibility elude on both principle and practice. Their new DNC chair is a leftover from the Obama administration whose record was so abysmal that it could not secure HRC a desired “third term” of Barry mismanagement and abuse of federal authority. Their up and coming “stars” are non-existent. Recognizing this sad state of affairs, Ms Grimsley Johnson retreats to the use of drunken revelers and stand up comics to justify the relevance of the modern Progressive Democratic Party.

    She summarily disregards the socialist Bernie Sanders who gave HRC a run for her money, and who would probably have won the radical loony Left Progressive Democrat Party nomination except for the collusion of the DNC and the biased media to rig the DNC primary in HRC’s favor and against Burnin’ socialist Bernie of honeymooning in Russia fame.

    The sole remaining constituency of the defunct Progressive Democrat Party consists of (1) drunken revelers, (2) socialists, (3) perverts, (4) criminals, (5) standup comics of questionable talent, (6) illegal aliens, (7) rabid advocates of infanticide, (8) anarchists, (9) atheist secular humanists, and (10) terrorists. Evidently, not only does the proverbial expression, “the blind leading the blind,” apply to the modern manifestation of the wayward wacko Progressive Democrat Party, but to that ancient axiom may be added the additional observation, “the dumb leading the dumber.”

    The only danger I can discern in MS Grimsley Johnson’s Progressive Democrat opinion piece is that the reality that the political party is now on life support and that, unless it can be rescued by the previously mentioned ten identity politics secular sects, the plug must be pulled on the party. Behind MS Grimsley Johnson’s assertion of the hope that drunken revelers and standup comics are the only hope for today and tomorrow’s Progressive Democrat Party lies the (to her and her ilk) unwelcome reality that the biased liberal media’s ability to drive election night tallies is henceforth a thing of the past. The majority of decent, God-fearing, traditional American values voters now disregard the anti-American slant that is a constant given in propagandistic movies, newspapers, broadcast media, and magazines. The inability of the biased media to influence elections in favor of the Progressive Democrat Party lunacy results in drunken revelers and standup comics being the movement’s only remaining hope for bare survival–much less resurgence. I suppose such is apropos in the light of the Progressive Democrat Party’s intoxicated state total lack of logically coherent policy and laughable policy positions at every turn.

    I wish to encourage MS Grimsley Johnson to keep up the work of hastening the inevitable end of the Progressive Democrat Party. It has been a miserable plague on the U.S. for far too long. The sooner it is assigned to the trash bin of history–the better. And with MS Grimsley Johnson’s help, the trip the Progressive Democrat Party is taking to the landfill of discarded philosophical and political trash movements is quickly becoming an open, accomplished, and apparent reality beyond challenge by everyone except drunken revelers and standup comics. MS Grimsley Johnson and her likeminded cohorts can have another drink and an addition al laugh as the Progressive Democrat Party exists stage left as the curtain falls for the final scene in a farcically dark epic political tragedy.