When I get back in from my early morning walk and after I have fed the girls (because nothing else will ever get done until the girls are fed) I like to watch the American ‘CBS This Morning‘ show and eat my breakfast with Charlie and Gayle and Norah. Very un-Australian, you might say, watching an American morning show, but there you go. I like it. And the last couple of months’ viewing has been especially . . . I can’t really think of one word to adequately describe it . . .
We all know (even those among us pretending not to know) that the Americans are at the moment knee deep in the throes of choosing candidates for their next Presidential election.
Rightly or wrongly, I have very little interest in politics. It doesn’t matter whether the politicians are Australian, British, American or any other flavour—personally, I just can’t shake the feeling when I listen to any of them that (to paraphrase Meghan Trainor) ‘if their lips are moving they must be lying’ . . . but in spite of that, I do have to say that watching the antics of the American candidates (both Republican and Democratic) has, so far, been pretty entertaining (and occasionally horrifying) and, as I have the feeling that they are still just getting warmed up, it will probably be worth watching for a little while yet.
(Australian politics pales by comparison . . . and, having had 5 Prime Ministers in 5 years, that’s saying something).
I am not going to pretend I know anything about the inner workings of the American political system (although, huge fan of The West Wing), and a lot of the rhetoric and jargon goes straight over my head, but for an outsider looking in, and for pure entertainment value, it’s hard to beat. It’s like watching a great big nation-wide game show or talent quest, with lots of flashing lights, and flag waving and over-the-top contestants. Everyone is jockeying for the top spot on the leader-board and determined to win the Grand Prize (and bad luck to anyone who gets trampled on in the process).
Watching some of the campaign debates and commentaries has made me laugh. A lot. And that kind of bothers me, because, well—I am pretty sure I am laughing for all the wrong reasons. (Shouldn’t choosing the next ‘leader of the free world’ be a slightly more serious business?) Now I like a giggle as much as the next person, but laughing-with and laughing-at are two very different things.
When I was a teenager (this may read like a random digression but I will get back on point, I promise) I remember leaving school one day with a friend and cutting along a small laneway we used as a shortcut to the main road where we caught our bus home. We were ambling along, chatting quite happily, when, without warning, the ground suddenly gave way beneath me, and I disappeared up to my shoulders into a concrete ‘pit’. A group of boys had removed the pit’s metal cover, replaced it with a lightweight cardboard sheet, camouflaged the whole thing with dirt and sand, and then lay in wait for an unwary victim. Cue me.
Of course, as soon as I fell, the sneaky saboteurs reappeared, all laughing hysterically (including my friend I might add) and patting themselves on the back for a successful prank. (Go on—I bet you laughed too.) I took all the skin off one leg, tore my sweater, wrenched a knee (which has never been the same since) and cracked my head hard on the concrete (which, it could be argued, explains a lot . . . )
I went home embarrassed and humiliated and sorry for myself, expecting my parents to be as outraged as I was, only to find them both struggling to keep their faces straight while I told them my tale of woe. My father had to actually leave the room to collect himself. To be honest, I should have expected it. Dad loved slapstick. I have very fond memories of sitting with him at the weekends, watching Charlie Chaplin, Buster Keaton, Keystone Kops, Laurel and Hardy or Abbot and Costello. He adored them all. and would watch them every chance he got. Dad was a gentle soul and I never saw him raise a hand to anyone, but watching the Three Stooges and Moe’s vicious physical attacks on Larry and Curly, or one of them being repeatedly smacked in the back of the head with a plank of wood, would leave him almost incapacitated, with tears of laughter streaming down his face.
In the end (and after much prompting) I did see the funny side of my own experience but you would think that because of it I may have become a tad more compassionate towards others and perhaps even immune to that sudden, explosive bubble of mirth that bursts forth unexpectedly when somebody embarrasses or humiliates themselves right in front of me. Apparently not—as demonstrated by some of my inappropriate guffaws while watching the campaign debates. There is obviously more of my father in me than I realised . . .
There are months and months of campaigning left to go before the final candidates are chosen and I will continue to watch their progress with interest. Hopefully, common sense will prevail, the slapstick and silliness will give way to substance and the Americans will pick their top two, and eventually choose the right person for the Presidency. For them and for the rest of the world.
But, you know, until then, I am not above looking out for a bit more hair-pulling, and eye-poking, and the odd finger-up-the-nose.
And don’t you think it would be just a little bit funny to see a certain candidate’s head being screwed relentlessly into a vice?
‘Why soitenly‘ nyuk, nyuk, nyuk . . .