Arkansas’s first environmental education state park interprets the importance of the natural world and our place within it.
The conservative press was abuzz last week over a quotation from Bro.-Gov. Mike Huckabee concerning how he planned to raise money for his presidential campaign. Here’s the quote: “I’ve got a map of 7-11s, a bunch of blue-steel revolvers, and some ski masks. We’re going to go all over the country and raise money in a very unique way.”
Our topic this week is why he would have said such a foolish, offensive thing. Some possibilities:
1. He was drunk. (That would explain it, all right, but the Bro.-Gov.’s beverage of choice, and the only one he admits to, is “Jesus juice,” which, never mind John 2:1-12, is apparently non-alcoholic and therefore wouldn’t loosen a tongue so scandalously.)
2. He was possessed. (Possible. It’s a long shot but maybe the entire sorry political side of the Bro.-Gov.’s public career has been a demon’s handiwork, a really rotten one like ol’ Puzuzu, the bad boy of “The Exorcist.”)
3. He was temporarily insane. (It’s a respectable legal defense; so why not a political defense? He could’ve used it to get out of other tights of his own making, such as Wayne Dumond.)
4. Deep down doesn’t really want to run for president and knows that such indefensible utterances are a sure-fire way to undermine a campaign.
5. He thought it was funny and still has no idea why everyone is so aghast.
I would opt here for Door No. 5. The Bro.-Gov. is notorious about making jokes that are unfunny and totally inappropriate but that amuse him greatly and make him proud that he’s such a clever rascal. He surely picked up that anti-talent during his turn as a Baptist preacher. All Baptist preachers who try to tell jokes wind up this way, hoist by their own petards. Their jokes are never funny, the weak laughter they might evoke from sympathetic congregations is always forced, and the jokes always betray the ministerial purpose, which is, if I understand Baptistism, to get some very serious three-way business transacted. Note that no prophet or patriarch ever told jokes. Nor the psalmist. Nor the proverbs man. Nor Ecclesiastes. Nor Jesus. Nor the apostles. Nor the gospelers. Nor the epistlers. There’s a reason. Jokes are derived from absurdity, and absurdity is a dire enemy of the Christian religion. Absurdity sees a great preposterous folly at the bottom of all things human — thus the “human comedy,” and the Divine Comedy — while the Christian religion seeks qualities and conditions of existence that redeem and ennoble. Loving your enemy and turning the other cheek and going the second mile with him who oppresses you — these aren’t qualities to laugh at, to make merry over, and attempts to lighten up dead-serious Christian propositions with pulpit levity are inevitably awkward and out of place. Such attempts usually fall in the lame-to-pathetic range, and can shove waverers onto Hell’s highway faster than simony or apostasy or skimming the collection plate.
So preachers shouldn’t tell jokes, and the good ones don’t, and the good politicians don’t either, for the same reason. Politics, for all its corruption and phoniness and posturing, is serious business down at ground level, where it matters, and you don’t want comedians in there mucking it up, making sport of it. None of which bodes well for the Bro.-Gov.’s stand-up future, either civil or ecclesiastical.
This quotation from the Bro.-Gov., this “joke” of his, raises so many questions — of propriety, of plain queerness — and one that has me stumped is this: Who was the intended audience for this “joke”? What constituency was supposed to find it funny and be encouraged thereby to vote for the man?
• People who work in convenience stores. and live in fear of their lives every day in order to scratch out a meager living in that worst of jobs? I wouldn’t think so. They wouldn’t see the humor. They wouldn’t “get” the joke. You don’t get a “rise” out of them with talk about donning ski masks and pulling blue-steel revolvers.
• Relatives of people who work in convenience stores—their moms and dads, their husbands and wives, their baby children—who have to live every day with that gnawing anxiety, with the back-of-the-mind rehash of a thousand news accounts of convenience-store robberies gone bad? Nope, not them either.
• Convenience-store owners. Please.
• Real-life convenience-store robbers — those in prison, those paroled, those given clemency by certain gubernatorial weasel types, and those who have only robbed convenience stores and murdered clerks in their minds, in their fantasies, and who might appreciate, and ultimately vote for, a politician whom they recognize as a fellow fantasy felon? Maybe, but the incarcerated can’t vote, and those who daydream about being desperadoes aren’t likely in the election-day high-turnout sector either.
Maybe he was targeting just the gun lobby. Probably cracked them up.
Bob Lancaster, one of the Arkansas Times longest and most valued contributors, retired from writing his column last week. We’ll miss his his contributions mightily. Look out, in the weeks to come, for a look back at some of his greatest hits. In the meantime, here's a good place to start.
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