A primary and an alternate crackpot theory to explain the Trump Presidency

The Primary Crackpot Theory

My primary crackpot theory to explain the Trump presidency goes like this. The Trump presidency makes sense if we accept that every human on earth is actually a character in a complex work of narrative art crafted by some genius distant alien dramatist. Our current American political moment is a climactic scene in this piece of narrative art, and the audience of astral beings who are watching are quite entertained by the hijinks of Trump and gang and moved by the sufferings of us, the underlings in the chorus. I can’t decide if this art is high tragedy, low farce, or theatre of the absurd. Perhaps it is all three. It’s hard to tell from here inside the action.

Furthermore, this crackpot theory posits, this master playwright must be quite familiar with dramatic conventions, themes, and characterizations from our earthling literature, including renaissance drama, Shakespeare, and the ancient Greeks. I know this about the master playwright due to the various allusions to classic literary works and themes that recur during each day’s news. I can’t watch coverage of Trump, his family, his staff, and his rivals without seeing references to King Lear, Hamlet, Oedipus, the Old Testament, Cervantes, early English novels. The play-within-a-play-within-a-play of the Julius Caesar semi-controversy was a particularly nice touch. Only a well-read playwright would have thought up that little bit of entertainment.

The names of the principal characters were the first clue that this all must be the work of a clever writer, albeit one whose penchant for puns is a bit overdone. Evidence: “Don” is a mafia head; “Trump” evokes fart, fool (think of the French tromper, to fool), dominance, and a blaring noise; a “Spicer” is one who changes or masks the true flavor; “Huckabee” is exactly what you would name a folksy festival of deception; “Conway” is a method for grift; “Bannon” is the one doing the bannin’; “Pence” is a pun on thinking and small change; “Putin” is the one who “put in” his preferred candidate; Republican stalwart “Priebus” is an anagram for “Is Repub!”; and don’t forget the perfectly named minor tough guy characters of Flynn, Kelly, McMaster, Rex, and Mad Dog. And of course the previous administration’s press guy was named Earnest, which means straightforward, honest, and true. Charles Dickens could not have come up with more appropriate names for the characters, and he was the genius who named characters like Peg Sliderskew, Ebenezer Scrooge, and Martin Chuzzlewit.

The recent addition of this character named Scaramucci to the cast only strengthens this theory. In Italian commedia del’arte, a comedic drama form of the Italian renaissance, Scaramouche or Scaramuccia is a buffoonish stock character who represents the unscrupulous servant of a gentleman or Don. You may know Scaramouche from the Queen lyric about doing the fandango. Scaramouche appears in countless theatrical works. He is a clever, pompous coward. And now the Trumpian drama has our own Scaramouche / Scaramucci. Clearly this is not arbitrary. Clearly this is the work of a writer quite familiar with renaissance literature.

So that’s my primary crackpot theory to explain the Trump presidency.

The Alternate Crackpot Theory

My alternate crackpot theory to explain the Trump presidency is that on or near Nov 8, 2016 someone traveled back in time and inadvertently mucked around with the space-time continuum, resulting in the Trump presidency, much like the plot of the 1952 Ray Bradbury short story “A Sound of Thunder.” If you’re not familiar with the story, it’s a quick read. If you don’t want to read it, basically, it’s a science fiction story about time travel featuring a party of big-game hunters who visit prehistoric time to hunt dinosaurs. The hunt is meticulously managed to ensure the hunters minimize disruptions to the stream of history. Indeed, they are only allowed to hunt quarry immediately before they were to die anyway. However, on this particular hunt, something goes awry, and one of the hunters panics and deviates from the path. Then the hunting party returns to their present to discover that things are slightly but ominously different, and a dictatorial authoritarian (described as “an anti everything man…a militarist, anti­-Christ, anti­-human, anti-intellectual”?—?sound familiar?) has now won the recent presidential election. The party then discovers that the panicking hunter had squished a butterfly in prehistoric times, which darkly altered the course of history.

So that’s my alternate crackpot theory. To prove or disprove this theory, I have been checking every boot I know for squished prehistoric butterflies. Finding no squished prehistoric butterflies thus far, I’m favoring the primary crackpot theory, the genius playwright idea. But I haven’t eliminated this Sound of Thunder crackpot theory.

Non-Crackpot Theories

No non-crackpot theories to explain the Trump presidency appear possible at this time.

Tool Sale

A few weeks (or was it months?)
We heard the sirens, then the
Ted Johnson, that old guy, the next block over
Remember him?
With the dog?
White hair?
Yeah. I remember him.
I talked to him.
About his garden
My garden
His dog
My dog
Our wives both named Margie.

Collapsed in his yard.

Yesterday, a few weeks (or was it months?)
A handmade yellow sign on the corner: Tool Sale.
Overheard Margie (his not mine) telling other shoppers, 
mostly men, 
of his
work, tools, death, story.
Forty years an airline mechanic, you know
still fixed engines after he retired, you know

Collapsed in the yard.

Open garage and folding tables
Everything organized in rows like a garden
Or a graveyard
Wrenches, calipers, sawblades, grease, metal
Things like voltmeters, soldering guns
Stickered with prices in sharpie
Now all of it half off
Since the day is ending

Twenty-five bucks pressed into his Margie's
widowed hand
And I own Ted Johnson's
heavy as hell
(carried to the car in a wagon)
cast iron
(The belt in fine shape)
modded a bit by Ted Himself
Drill press.

A perfect situation

The sports world is abuzz about the blown call at first base that denied a perfect game by Detroit pitcher Armando Gallaraga the other night.

It’s a fascinating little situation – a microcosm of human failure (ironically, within the context of something we call perfection), an exercise in forgiveness, and a couple fine examples of human dignity in the face of our predilection for failure.

One angle that I find surprising: the wide cry for making the situation “right” by “awarding” Galarraga a perfect game or by “officially” saying that the runner was out.  Mike Greenberg on ESPN’s Mike and Mike in the Morning was arguing for this pretty vehemently. Keith Olberman suggested the commissioner should step in immediately and “give” Galaragga a perfect game.  Let’s reverse the call!  The commissioner should declare that the runner was out!  Let’s give the guy a perfect game!  He was robbed!  We have “negated his place in baseball history”!

But here’s what I wonder: while the call was wrong, how would retroactively changing the call or “awarding” the guy a perfect game now do anything to change what happened?  Because here’s the thing: the stuff that happened has already happened. Umpire Jim Joyce already made a mistake; calling the runner out now won’t change the fact that he did.  He’s owned up to it, he’s made amends with Galarraga, and he should be forgiven.  Great!

And Galaraga already pitched well enough and his defense played well enough that if the umpire had made a proper call, he would have record a perfect game.  That’s been pretty clearly established.  Changing the official record won’t make it more or less true.

So what is it that we want changed?  Do we just want to say that the guy threw a perfect game?  Fine: every one of us can go ahead and say it.  We all know what happened.  Calling it an “official” perfect game will do absolutely nothing to change what happened or how we remember what happened.

As for memories, as for a place in history: I’d say this game is now actually more memorable, more historically significant than most other “ordinary” perfect games, because of these circumstances. It’s like the Harvey Haddix game: a game that baseball history will remember well, no matter what we call it.  Because at this point, anything MLB would do is mere clerical work, which will neither affect what actually happened, nor affect the future of anyone involved.

No, I think we should stop worrying about trying to somehow make it a perfect game, retroactively.  Instead, let’s worry about telling the story properly.  When we describe the history of perfect games in baseball, there’s no reason we can’t say “And on June 2, 2010, less than a month after Dallas Braden and Roy Halladay pitched perfect games of their own, Armando Galarraga pitched a game in which the only runner who reached base did so with 2 outs in the ninth inning on a blown call by the first base umpire.  Galarraga promptly retired the following batter– in effect pitching a 28-out perfect game.”

Isn’t that reasonable?  Isn’t that easy?    Didn’t I in fact just do that, in two quick sentences?