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Thursday, December 29, 2016

Poor Tom Speaks to the President-Elect

-- By Tom Phillips  

(After fasting through the Winter Solstice, Poor Tom puts on his clothes and comes in from the cold.)

Poor Tom in "King Lear"
OK friends, I apologize.  As some of you realized, Poor Tom was just a naked disguise, and his impenetrable essays on Irony no more than a post-election distraction for an old man -- an old man fearing for his grandchildren, trying to step back and love the world from an ironic distance, a literary perspective.

Still, it was a timely topic.

The primary definition of irony -- saying one thing and meaning another -- is Trumpspeak, the new lingua franca of our land.  A University means a scam.  I grabbed her by the private parts means I didn't do anything. "Make America Great Again" means make the rich richer.  "Lock her up" means drop the case.  A Wall means a fence, and then nothing.  NATO means NADA.

Everything he says means nothing -- he speaks in the moment only, and the meaning disappears like a post on Snapchat.   This is the ultimate in irony -- not the distance between one meaning and another, but the distance between meaning and non-meaning, being and nothingness.

However!

(With little hope but firm resolve, Poor Tom dons a scholar's robe, shakes his sleeves and begins to speak into the air)

Listen up, Mr. President-elect:



"Kings don't use irony."  If you want to rule the empire, you have to give up saying one thing to mean another.  Every word you speak will be willfully misinterpreted, so your goal must be to eliminate interpretation.  An edict must mean the same thing to everyone who reads it.  An impossible task, but  you're supposed to try.  

Some language is "performative," creates a new identity for the person who utters it.  Oaths of office, for example, impose a new level of responsibility on normally mendacious human beings -- lies, instead of casual dodges or deceptions, can be high crimes and misdemeanors.   

In just a few days, placing your hand on a Bible you never read, you will take an oath to "preserve, protect and defend" a Constitution you never read.

So God help us all.

(Poor Tom puts on his hat, and disappears) 

-- Copyright 2016 by Tom Phillips

To read Poor Tom's impenetrable essays on Irony, go to my other blog, The Road to Dotage


For more nakedness, click here