In No Go The Bogeyman, Marina Warner takes, from the mouth of (very English) babes the distinction between “funny ha ha” and “funny peculiar”. It is an inherently unstable disjunction, having the structure of a booby trap or a slapstick routine. Between Punch the puppet and Gacy the clown serial killer, between “locker room talk” and sexual assault, there exists a subsurface resemblence, a vicious hilarity, to which we are both drawn and repelled. Warner’s book is about the large social region of the grotesque that is minimized by social scientists and made a footnote by literary critics, but that actually intrudes in our lives in a big way. The grotesque is generated by funny ha ha and funny peculiar, much as the two ends of funny pull at each othe.r
I’ve heard many people say that they can’t believe that the president we inaugurated today is really the president. That unbelievability is cousin to the grotesque, and haunts the seriousness of the ocassion. Downfalls are rarely so much like bad jokes. Rep. John Lewis called Trump an illegitimate president, which is a nice beginning, but hardly goes through the entire career. Trump is illegitimate as a public figure in every way: he’s a bogus businessman, a bogus playboy, a bogus politician, and a bogus reality tv star. He’s bogosity on a monstrous scale, sort of like some sexting Paul Bunyan, some underground comic marrying kitsch and obscenity. And in this he is an apt symbol of the American moment post – neoliberalism, post Iraq, post post –racism. It is as if Robert Coover’s The Public Burning leaped off the page and realized fiction in cold fact. We are inaugurating a dirty joke, and we will all carry a little flake of that dirtiness with us as Americans. Between “make America great” and “America is already great”, we have chosen the compromise of making America a great horselaugh.
That’s what the statue of bigotry says. Drop the mic.