Friday, July 18, 2008

His (GOP) State of Mind?

From HuffPo about John McCain's hilarious sense of humor:

Last week, in response to a serious question about Iran, the Republican presumptive nominee joked about killing Iranians with weaponized cancer. This week, it's news about a joke involving gorillas and rape.

'Did you hear the one about the woman who is attacked on the street by a gorilla, beaten senseless, raped repeatedly and left to die? When she finally regains consciousness and tries to speak, her doctor leans over to hear her sigh contently and to feebly ask, 'Where is that marvelous ape?'

Get it? Women like to be beaten and raped. Hoo-hoo! In days past, it's been jokes about wife-beating, bombing Iran, Chelsea Clinton's looks, and Alzheimer's Disease. Based on these precedents, I can only imagine Senator McCain's forthcoming zingers about still-births, burn victims and Thalidomide.
Studies abound that show a predictive link between cruelty to animals and cruelty to people. In fact, as children, pathological killers frequently abuse animals through torturing, dismembering, burning, and other means. For this reason, mental health professionals pay special attention when kids with this predilection show up on their couches.

So I wonder: Has anyone discovered a similar link between a predilection for certain kinds of "humor" and serious, potentially dangerous pathology?

I'm not talking about "gallows humor," which is beloved of many a first-line defender and infantry warrior as a means of staying sane when each day brings something truly ghastly up close and personal.

I'm talking about jokes that depend for their punch on identifying with an abuser, on obliterating a victim of abuse. Actually I'm talking about patterns that become evident over time in the material that some people select for amusement, and about an increasingly obvious tone deafness that prevents their sensing what is creepily inappropriate.

Some things just aren't hilarious. It's not funny when a candidate for the United States presidency boogies down to "bomb-bomb-bomb, bomb-bomb Iran," particularly against the backdrop of an ongoing military obliteration next door. There's no saving divide between his comment and reality. If elected, McCain CAN do that, which makes the fact that he thinks it's funny really, really threatening, and really, really grotesque.

Some things just aren't hilarious. It's not funny when a white-haired old man publicly humiliates a teenager about anything. It's particulary un-funny when the joke depends on virulent sexism for any oxygen it hopes to have. In McCain's frame of reference, Chelsea ceases to be a living, sentient teenage girl. She is nothing but a second-shelf commodity. The "humor" turns on publicly debasing a child but you see, child abuse just isn't funny. That McCain and his Republican audience just don't get that fundamental reality is, rightly, disturbing to anyone who does.

Some things just aren't hilarious. Ambush, beating, and multiple brutal rapes don't strike me as ha-ha-ha material. The mental health and criminal justice communities have understood for decades that rape is a crime of violence, not of passion. It's a particularly violent abuse of power--of male strength and a carefully inculcated male sense of social entitlement. If it's funny, then other violent abuses of power must be equally amusing, and, as just noted, for John McCain, they are.

All this is of a piece with McCain's having publicly called his wife a "cunt." The oomph in that putdown, of course, is in its vulgar degradation of the female. Like all other forms of verbal abuse this was an act of violence. But this act acquires an added measure of brutality because it is committed in public. It's reprehensible anywhere, but in public, it becomes gladiatorial sport. Funny, right?

I'll leave it to others to ponder what it means for McCain to call the woman who is the source of his wealth and psycho-social privilege a "cunt."

Unleashing weaponized cancer on any nation is amusing? Wife beating is something to laugh about?

The crude, blunt, ugly sexism this Tailhook poster boy seems to feed on is (as it often is) symbolic of his entire world view. His choice of laughing matter makes that patently clear.

That is, through his choice of "jokes," the Republican candidate for Leader of the Free World displays time and again his opinion that it's amusing to abuse, degrade, humiliate, and hurt anyone he deems less powerful and less valuable than he is. It's entertaining, and it's his right to display his amusement whenever he sees fit and in any form he pleases.

"Let McCain be McCain"? It's a sobering consideration given his predecessor's legitimizing of torture and claim to imperial power and presidential infallibilty. And it's of a piece with his advisors' notions that Americans losing homes to foreclosure are "whiners," and that another attack on the USA would be "good" for his campaign.

There's just something more than a little twisted going on here. McCain's jokes, like W's, comprise a clear window on his character and his state of mind. Once again, it ain't a pretty view.

Caveat emptor. Please God, for the planet's sake, let the buyer beware..