Crilly: Time and time again he has shown himself vulnerable to mockery
Trump has built his brand in cartoonish fashion. He is his own caricature. Responding to that with ridicule is not un-American
Editor’s Note: Rob Crilly is a British journalist living in New York. He was The Telegraph’s Afghanistan and Pakistan correspondent and was previously the East Africa correspondent for The Times of London. The opinions in this article are those of the author.
There was a time in the 1980s when I took a decision to be miserable. Four million people were unemployed across Britain, miners and factory workers were being told they were a part of history, and a selfish form of right-wing politics embodied by Margaret Thatcher had taken hold of my country.
To smile it seemed, to my 16-year-old self, was a form of complicity. To have fun was to collaborate with the enemy. To enjoy myself seemed to be to cash in on capitalism and to feed on the misfortune of those weaker than myself.
Which is roughly where a swath of well-meaning America seems to be after Donald Trump’s election win.
As a result, there are now a number of socially acceptable ways to respond to his shock elevation. Most seem to involve the first four stages of grief: denial, anger, bargaining and depression. I sense it will take some time yet for the fifth stage, “acceptance”, to become respectable in polite society.
You have heard the stories by now, the tears on the subway and the post-it notes of angst left in public places.
One thing is certain: This is no laughing matter, a sentiment my teenage activist soul would recognize.
Trump, as commander of one of the world’s biggest nuclear arsenals, could destroy the world overnight or – by refusing to recognize the reality of climate change – he could do it at a slower pace.
And yet my teenage self would tell you none of it does any good: Pouting is a good look for only a certain type of model. Dye your hair black and you run the risk of headaches on sunny days. None of it brought the Thatcher years to a sudden end.
In the case of Trump, it is self-defeating too.
Time and time again he has shown himself vulnerable to mockery. Humor is Kryptonite to his thin-skinned existence.
He is utterly impervious to the usual weapons of politics. Try to wound him with shame or embarrass him with public scrutiny and you may as well try to sink a duck by pouring a jug of H2O over its rear end.
Remember the small issue of his taxes?
But we all know the size of his hands. Graydon Carter’s long-running feud with the “short-fingered vulgarian”, as he so pithily put it, recently resurfaced in the pages of Vanity Fair, where a waiter at the Trump Grill was quoted discussing the size of his bosses’ digits.
Inevitably, the orange-haired bloviator responded with a humorless tirade on Twitter.
Trump’s sensitivity is easily understood when you realize he is on a desperate quest to be taken seriously. Just remember the face he pulled when he sat beside Barack Obama in the Oval Office on that Thursday after an election.
it was the sort of face a three-year-old exhibits when they really, really want you know they are concentrating. Or when they are trying to squeeze out a number two.
This is what got the whole charade started.
One theory has it that his political career – or car crash, depending on your point of view – began with that famous roasting he received during the 2011 White House Correspondents’ Dinner.
Barack Obama riffed on Trump’s leading position in the “birther” movement.
“Now, I know that he’s taken some flak lately, but no one is happier, no one is prouder to put this birth certificate matter to rest than The Donald,” he said. “And that’s because he can finally get back to focusing on the issues that matter — like, did we fake the moon landing? What really happened in Roswell? And where are Biggie and Tupac?”
In the video clip, Trump stares straight ahead, lips pursed, much as you might during an awkward medical procedure conducted by a doctor whispering all the while into your ear that you are an idiot.
Running for president was all about winning revenge and respect.
The baton has since been taken up by “Saturday Night Live” in the form of a bewigged Alex Baldwin, whose small-mouthed performances have again provoked outpourings of abuse from the President-elect.
So forget the people who tell you Trump is too bad for laughter, too dangerous for mirth – that it ignores the real danger he poses to minorities or world peace.
The truth is that Trump has built his brand in cartoonish fashion. The strange hair, the catchphrases and made-for-TV life make him a character in his own life story. He is his own caricature.
Responding to that with ridicule is not un-American. It is not demeaning to the office of the President – for there is only one person in all of this who is demeaning the office of the President. It is not flippant, as humorless New York liberals tell me.
Humor – of the generous, belly-rumbling sort – is something to unite around as a symbol of resistance.
It is not a sign that you have given up, that you are complacent or one of the winners. When you remember that all Trump craves is to be taken seriously, it turns out that laughing is your duty.