I took in Comedy Central The Daily Show’s pop-up exhibit “The Donald J. Trump Presidential Twitter Library” during its very brief three-day installation at Union Station. It was priceless, even though I was already aware of many of the tweets. Trump spews his under-140-character absurdities so often that the latest one overshadows previous outrages. Collected and grouped in categories, they remind us of our president’s inconsistent thinking and consistent nastiness over many years.
Although I enjoyed the exhibit immensely, I left wondering whether laughter is a right response to our abominable president. After all, his tweets are often juvenile, lying, sexist, racist, insulting, malicious, otherwise offensive, or disrespectful of American institutions. For instance:
“I feel sorry for Rosie’s new partner in love whose parents are devastated by the thought of their daughter being with @Rosie—a true loser.” (December 14, 2011)
“An 'extremely credible source' has called my office and told me that @BarackObama's birth certificate is a fraud.” (August 6, 2012)
“26,000 unreported sexual assaults in the military-only 238 convictions. What did these geniuses expect when they put men & women together?” (May 7, 2013)
“Happy 4th of July to everyone, including the haters and losers!” (July 3, 2014)
“In addition to winning the Electoral College in a landslide, I won the popular vote if you deduct the millions of people who voted illegally.” (November 27, 2016)
“How low has President Obama gone to tapp my phones during the very sacred election process. This is Nixon/Watergate. Bad (or sick) guy!” (March 4, 2017)
“The failing @nytimes has disgraced the media world. Gotten me wrong for two solid years. Change libel laws?” (March 30, 2017)
“I heard poorly rated @Morning_Joe speaks badly of me (don’t watch anymore). Then how come low I.Q. Crazy Mika, along with Psycho Joe, came..
...to Mar-a-Lago 3 nights in a row around New Year’s Eve, and insisted on joining me. She was bleeding badly from a face-lift. I said no!” (June 29, 2017)
Granted, laughter has cathartic value. It helps us cope with the twitterer-in-chief. We laugh so we don’t cry.
But it seems there’s risk in laughter, too. (As if we could keep from laughing!) All appearances are that Trump likes the attention that his outrageous behavior elicits. And reacting to him might energize his supporters, who enjoy his takedown of liberal “elites.” The opposition’s scorn feeds Trump’s appeal with his base.
Moreover, laughter ought not be the end of our response. Catharsis ought not wash away outrage. Our Commander-in-Twitter (one of the exhibit’s categories) is a joke, but the real danger he poses is not. He has the power to hurt millions of people, from the immigrants he wants to deport to the millions who would be killed in a nuclear war he provokes.
Like dealing with a misbehaving child, ignoring him when he tweets might be the best response. But it’s not easy. His personality is fascinatingly disgusting. I despise him yet want to read everything I see about his perverseness. When I scroll through the headlines on my Google news page, I read first any stories where Trump looks bad.
Yesterday I read about a primal scream event planned for the first anniversary of the election. “Scream Helplessly at the Sky” it’s called. The idea started in Boston and has been taken up elsewhere. In Chicago, people are expected to gather near Trump Tower at 6 p.m. on November 8 and scream “words/moans/yells of choice.” Those who aren’t near Trump Tower are urged to yell wherever they are.
I can’t see myself feeling comfortable about screaming unless surrounded by a crowd, but screaming does seem like a more suitable response than laughing.
But laughing or crying or screaming: what comes next? That’s the real issue.