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3rd February 2016

Are you serious?

Ryan Khurana asks why we all pay so much attention to a man like Donald Trump

I’m from Canada, a country that makes major political decisions based solely on the number on the front of the calendar. Life as a Canadian is so insufferably dull, boring, and inconsequential that we have become very funny people; comedians from Jim Carrey, Mike Myers, Russell Peters to Seth Rogen all call Canada their home. This led me to make an observation, that boredom and despair are the seeds that bear the fruit of humour. Canada is an example of the former, and one only needs to look at the large number of black and Jewish comedians to see the relationship with the latter. Despair is the cannon fodder of laughter, tragedy a vital ingredient. As Voltaire said, “God is a comedian playing to an audience too scared to laugh.”

With that let’s turn to Donald Trump, one of God’s great practical jokes. Trump should not be taken seriously, and the fact that every word that comes out his mouth becomes a meme helps to prove this point. The Trump does not propose policies, the Trump does not discuss important issues, the Trump does, however, make asinine, outrageous, and laughable comments. One wonders whether he is in on the joke, but it doesn’t really matter. I was told to believe that a Wharton School educated, multibillionaire entrepreneur has the intelligence to realise his own humour, but he’s funny either way.

The fact that I know so many people that realize he is a walking pineapple made me question the recent petition to ban him from the UK, and the debate that followed. Let us put aside the obvious hypocrisy of trying to ban a man for his opinion regarding banning people for their opinions, and simply analyse the implication. Are people actually taking Trump seriously? And if so, what in the world is motivating this?
A lot of commotion is built on the offensiveness of Trump’s remarks to Muslims, Mexicans and women, but it does no good to get worked up about them. First let’s look at his comments on Muslims, that the United States ought to ban all Muslims from entry. What a stupid idea, not stupid because of the offensiveness, racism, or unconstitutionality of the remark—but the type of Three Stooges stupid. It is an absurd, impractical, useless, unimplementable idea that is not even worthy of any serious debate.

So why has the American political debate, and the global debate turned closer to Trump’s statement than it was before? It’s because it was taken seriously. Trump does not believe what he said, nobody in their right minds thinks that he does, but for some reason that comment is taken seriously as opposed to being laughed at. We can either laugh with Trump at the fact that he said something stupid, or at him for thinking that we would take it seriously.

His comments on Mexicans follow a similar outline—offensive and inaccurate. To say that his statements are damaging however, is to assume that the large Mexican population of the states cannot laugh at their own expense. To somehow imply that Donald Trump could rob their self-respect seems quite implausible. His plan to build a wall that Mexico will pay for highlights his obliviousness, and also the fact that he thinks geopolitics is like the hotel business. It is not going to happen, so we might as well laugh at the fact the Trump thinks it will.

Finally, there is Trump’s 1940s-era misogyny that probably only connects with 90-year-old Southerners—who, for some reason, are politically active.

A lot has been made over his feud with Megyn Kelly. But Kelly, an intelligent journalist, did not have time to let his remarks get in the way of her work. The rest of the world should have done the same. We should either laugh at the fact that the Trump has not witnessed the last 60 years of progress for women, or how he had thought that the world hadn’t either—but we should not give him attention for it. Heidi Klum responded to Trump’s insult about her looks with a funny video, and Fiorina with a witty retort. They know better than to take the insults of a man who looks like an Oompa Loompa with a gerbil on his head. The public at large should take the same approach to everything he says. By taking this approach, we maintain our dignity, and are able to laugh at his expense.

After seeing how ludicrous taking Trump seriously is, let’s look at the damage it has done. Valuable time and money has been wasted on debating his ban, but more importantly, Trump is in the spotlight. Do not for a second mistake Donald Trump for an idiot, he is in fact a sly and intelligent political operator, as his polling should show.

If there is anything Donald Trump knows, it’s Donald Trump, and when the topic becomes Donald Trump, he shines. So by taking him seriously, he has been able to set the agenda; outrage has allowed him to be the centre of the public eye. He uses this to attack his fellow Republican nominees and make himself seem more viable as a candidate in the process. This is dangerous, and seriousness makes it so.
Humour cuts through rhetoric, increasing both empathy and logic. This is the reason why The Daily Show was able to make sense of American politics, and why after Jon Stewart’s departure that sense vanished. To lack humour makes one tense and rigid, making one closed-minded and off putting. Donald Trump’s opponents who take him seriously suffer from this condition, and have alienated a good chunk of the population.

As the old adage goes, “the enemy of my enemy is my friend,” and Donald Trump’s support is based on shaky grounds. He is nothing more than an angry tangerine who hates on the left-wing establishment and air of political correctness that many Americans detest, and in doing so he makes the populace his friends (Bernie Sanders does the same thing with a different target). Depriving him of the spotlight will let people look away and start thinking about issues rather than people.

For now, however, this is not politics, it’s ‘Keeping up with the Trumps’, a reality television show with a large audience and an illogical appeal. So just sit back, relax, and enjoy the show.

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