Such Is the Human Race: Missing Twain In the Era of Trumpian Skullduggery
Photo by Bert Underwood/George Eastman House/Getty Images)
On his 181st birthday, a salute to the dazzlingly incisive Mark Twain - born Samuel Clemens - the "true father of our national literature" according to H.L. Mencken and a cranky, witty, clear-eyed, anti-slavery, pro-women, self-described "moralist in disguise" who never met a blathering bullshit piece of political malarkey he didn't rush to eviscerate. Having long ripped "public office (as) private graft" and other self-serving evils of politics, what would he have made of our idiot con man catastrophe? Twain would be the logical chronicler of the inept, corrupt times: His "The Guilded Age" portrait of Washington immorality and blathering "Pap" of Huck Finn belong in the bombastic here and now. So does much else of Twain's quick wit and deep outrage. For starters, in his honor:
"There are some things that can beat smartness and foresight. Awkwardness and stupidity can. The best swordsman in the world doesn’t need to fear the second best swordsman in the world; no, the person for him to be afraid of is some ignorant antagonist who has never had a sword in his hand before; he doesn’t do the thing he ought to do, and so the expert isn’t prepared for him." - from A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur’s Court.
“The political and commercial morals of the United States are not merely food for laughter, they are an entire banquet.”
“Reader, suppose you were an idiot. And suppose you were a member of Congress. But I repeat myself.”
“A banker is a fellow who lends you his umbrella when the sun is shining and wants it back the minute it begins to rain.”
"If you tell the truth you don't have to remember anything."
"Patriotism is defending your country all the time, and your government when it deserves it."
Damn, we could use some Twain, also Molly Ivins, around now. Let's hope their fighting spirit endures.
Pens placed in tribute at his Elmira grave.