A recent post considers why the following sentence –

This matter is already well known in the golfing world, domestically and internationally, and our Club has become a laughingstock.

– is itself something of a laughingstock. The sentence comes from a super-serious protest letter, whose writer announces his intention to resign from his country club because the club retains as members two soon to be incarcerated felons.

Scathing Online Schoolmarm suggested in that post that since the public mind identifies country club golf as the ultimate trivial pastime of the idle rich, attaching heavy geopolitical language to it just sounds funny, jarring – it’s the sort of juxtapositional (mixing the serious with the superficial) humor we associate with Oscar Wilde (divorces are made in heaven, etc,. etc., etc.). The more trivial the activity, in other words, the more susceptible it is to the rather easy comic operation involving its assimilation into the world of weighty things. (“Algernon: Well, one must be serious about something, if one wants to have any amusement in life. I happen to be serious about Bunburying. What on earth you are serious about I haven’t got the remotest idea. About everything, I should fancy. You have such an absolutely trivial nature.” “Algernon: Well, I can’t eat muffins in an agitated manner. … When I am in trouble, eating is the only thing that consoles me. Indeed, when I am in really great trouble, as any one who knows me intimately will tell you, I refuse everything except food and drink.”)

Of course, it goes the other way too. When a person powerfully identified as the idle golf-playing rich assumes a very serious job indeed, he makes himself vulnerable to a special sort of critique. Among the responses to a New York Times article about Trump’s apparent indifference to information he received about the Russian government giving money to Taliban soldiers for killing American fighters is this one, from the father of a combatant:

Perhaps if Trump is not too busy playing golf … he could find time to attend [an intelligence] briefing?

My kid is in a combat zone and I’d like to see him again. My kid is important to me.

Nothing against playing golf. But if you’re lining up a putt while Rome burns…

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