I get exposed to bits of American political humour (sorry, when American, spell it “humor”) quite frequently, and one repeated joke over the past year and a half has been all about the tubbies.
Specifically, certain comedians openly mock the body mass of above-average politicians – Newt Gingrich and Chris Christie to name the popular choices. Motion pictures were barely around when the largest (obesiest? That isn’t a word but I kind of want it to be…) president William Taft was in office, so there was very little presence of visual media to create a farce out of his size. But since we’re in a different era, there is all sorts of air space to fill in mocking the appearance of current and former leaders. Bill Clinton and Al Gore have both been mocked for “letting loose” since their shared terms, which at least overshadowed the former’s sexual endeavours and the latter’s flat personality (as opposed to round body).
In any of these cases, or fatty-fat-fat-fat retorts yet to come, a giant logical fallacy, ad hominem, is replacing political debate and discussion that focuses on the merits and goals and policies and actions of elected or potentially-elected officials. That is simply unacceptable – it’s diverting attention from the fact that these politicians (back referring to Gingrich and Christie) are terrible and dangerous for the country in which they seek to gain power.
Christie thinks that it’s up to the population to decide something for a minority population that is otherwise constitutionally guaranteed for the majority of the population (marriage). Gingrich is all full of crazy shit of actual political substance – an unrealistic timeline for colonizing the moon, the perception that Obama is a far-far-left socialist from which America needs to move to the far-far-right, and the same old bullshit about family values that he clearly has never followed and doesn’t even jive with the logic of socially conservative opinions. See? No need to make fun of their appearances. Their legitimacy and/or reliability as the ultimate civil servant (on federal or state level) has already been thoroughly debunked.
But we’re all guilty of wanting to make these jokes. The cartoonish appearances of many politicians can’t quite be separated from their more relevant merits because the visual medium is primarily what we have. As many legitimately terrible characteristics both as a person and a mayor that I have for criticizing Toronto mayor Rob Ford, that he’s a very round man with the flushed-red angry face of an ugly bully seems to represent the quality of his leadership oh so well. See, I can remove any jabs at his appearance and still make the same argument. But I can relate to why others are strongly compelled to bash the appearance of their own country’s politicians. An unappealing look elicits a physiological response, which can be tamed by caring and reasonable people and discarded when personal merits prevail. But if there are no personal merits? The physiological response is exacerbated. We need to make a conscious effort to separate moral and ideological repulsion from aesthetic repulsion. Political issues cannot be resolved with weight loss and cosmetic surgery.