THREE GENTLE STORIES IN THE AGE OF TRUMP
I was hooked on the US Presidential Elections. I'd like to say it was as a serious observer of politics, and while that might be partly true, I was probably caught up as much as anyone in the ongoing soap opera.
As I watched his campaign speeches I kept thinking - where had I seen all the boos, jeers, crazy hair and posturing before?
While the most common observation made about Trump was the link between his campaign and Reality TV, I realised this wasn't even sophisticated enough to be an episode of The Apprentice- and thats saying something - this was WORLD CHAMPIONSHIP WRESTLING.
His rallies raged like battles between Abdullah the Butcher and Killer Kowalski.
In the left corner - DONALD TRUMP - all the way from Trump Tower, weighing whatever he weighs after a diet of fast food and pop drinks.
We'll build a wall he screams and the crowd cheers like they'd cheer a Mongolian Body Chop - and Mexico's going to pay - more cheers .... and the winner is, incredibly, DONALD TRUMP.
It occurs to me that the greatest victim from the Presidential campaign and Trump's subsequent victory is the battle over nuance. Subtlety, shades of grey, graduations of opinion are slammed into the canvas. It's all I am the greatest ... I will be the greatest ... America will be the greatest again.
My private rebellion in a world lurching towards empty clarity is to enter the space of nuance and to that end, in this world of hyperbole, I will tell three stories, stories that inhabit the graded terrain of life where whimsy, reality and soul merge. What better place to start in that netherworld of life - dementia.
A friend of mine had a mum whose later years were spent in advanced dementia. She was cared for by one of his brothers and each day - rain, hail or shine - he took her to a cafe for a treat. Each day - rain, hail or shine - she asked why they had gone out. Every day the answer was the same - because it's your birthday - at which she would delightedly clap her hands with joy.
Little Ralph is becoming a young dog of extraordinary intelligence. I am not saying that because he's mine. Well I am, but I am also saying it because it is true. So is this little story. In Sydney I stay with my friend Jim who has developed into a late onset gardener. Last week he was 'deadheading' his spent hibiscus flowers while Ralph watched. Ralph adores Jim with the sort of unabashed love that children reserve for a favourite playful relative. Anyway, Ralph observed Jim for about a minute and then proceeded to nip the buds with his mouth, effectively helping Jim with the gardening.
Jim buried his mum Ruby recently and gave a speech at the funeral that was beautiful. They say that most Australians would rather be in the casket than give the eulogy but Jim did a great job, holding firm to the telling of his mum's story. While the religious tone of the celebrant seemed more calibrated to reassuring the ancient congregation that heaven, and therefore an afterlife, existed, Jim's speech was of a humanist nature. It was about a simple life lived in the working class streets of Sydney's Erskenville. Here are some moments.
Serious courting in the Australia of the forties involved going to the pictures. On one such date Jim Snr and Ruby emerged, no doubt hand-in-hand, from the cinema. Outside the scene was one of utter pandemonium - sirens, screams, dancing, joy. The Second World War had ended.
Over seven decades later, Jim Jnr walked out of the Cremorne Orpheum to read a text. His mum had just passed away.
Book-ended by the two movies, the intervening 73 years held a devoted marriage that had started with a couple of butter boxes as kitchen chairs - they were the best years of our lives said Ruby - yielded three children and all the joys and sadness of life; a script for a movie of its own. If life is what happens while you are busy making plans, in this instance it's the thing that happens in the space between escapes to the movies.
There you are. I feel better for contemplating these gentle stories, taking a moments respite in little things.
Raymond & Ralph xx
Read Ralph's WUFFINGTON POST on FACEBOOK
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