Michelle Wolf’s feral little performance at the White House Correspondents’ Dinner triggered a little memory of mine.
I believe I was in the second grade when an older girl on the playground lured me to play a “game” with her. Okay, I said. I was always up for a new game. She had me sit on the grass across from her. It was in a relatively secluded place, near a vine-covered fence.
After we got situated, Nedra slapped me across the face. Hard. I was stunned. Then she did it again. And again. She explained that she was giving me my “treatment.” The bell rang to signal the end of recess, and as I leapt up, Nedra warned me that I needed to come back for my treatment the next day.
In later years, I made sense of this memory by realizing that Nedra was probably a badly abused child transferring her experience to lucky little me. But at the time, of course, I was aghast. I was not an assertive child, so I simply avoided her. (I’d already learned the risks of “tattling” outweighed the slim chance of getting any justice or safety by reporting the assault to school authorities.)
I did not return for Nedra’s treatment the next day, much to her chagrin. But she tracked me down at the end of recess then ominously scolded me for not coming back for more. As I looked at her, I felt a mixture of dread and bafflement at her audacity.
But I essentially told her, “No. I’m not going back.” She disappeared like a transient who was just passing through the school. In fact, I don’t believe she was at the school for even a year. Possibly she left the area with whatever remnant of the dysfunctional family from whence she came, or maybe was relocated to a foster home. I have no idea. But I do say a little prayer for Nedra when I remember her.
Some People Cling Bitterly to Their Resentments
Likewise, as I watched Wolf perform her treatment on America the other night, I couldn’t help but wonder if some kind of dysfunction and abuse in life got her to this point. Or maybe she was simply a badly spoiled child, which often gives birth to that mean-girl craving for abusing others. Was she transferring her bitterness onto us, or projecting her own intentions? I have no idea. But her behavior and act were not rational in any sense. I think the term “feral” best sums it up.
I’m not going to complain that Wolf was cruel and weird and screechy and humorless, although all of that is true. She slapped up White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders—figuratively, but hard across the face. I could even see that same sense of weird marvel in Sanders’ reaction that I felt when Nedra did it to me.
She slapped Kellyanne Conway too, and any woman whom Wolf felt should come back for further “treatment.” And prior to Wolf’s act, she whined that President Trump was a “coward” for not submitting to her treatment. Go figure.
No, Wolf’s performance represents something much more insidious and soulless than another bout of sarcasm masquerading as comedy. Sure, it fell flat with many viewers. Those who thoroughly enjoyed it are fellow travelers with Wolf who live within her bandwidth and have voracious appetites for schadenfreude.
I’m not sure what planet such folks come from. It’s hard to understand people who like constant mindless insults laced with obscenities, who expect a certain word starting with “f-u” must always be translated as “f-u-n-n-y.” Yet, just when we thought comedy couldn’t get any lower and more tiresomely shocking, we get such an act.
But I’m convinced that such folks don’t really know what they’re doing. They are probably transferring or projecting something. In any case, they are simply doing what our grievance culture—filled with cruelty, death, and excessive amounts of idle time—has taught them to do. In fact, I doubt they even know how to do anything else.
What Alternatives Are There in Such a Culture?
When I was a bit older, maybe fourth grade or so, I met another girl on the same playground. Our friendship was brief only because she also moved away. Her name was Debra, and she was the ultimate tomboy. She wasn’t popular or considered a cool kid. But she didn’t take any bunk from anybody. If anyone tried to harass me, she literally jumped on them and threaten to punch them out. I could breathe freely when I was around her.
Of course, Nedra and Debra never met, but I can imagine the dynamics being a bit like a mixture of Wolf and Trump. Those who justify Wolf’s act claim Trump has made tasteless jokes, too. One difference is that Trump’s verbal assaults are considered politically incorrect, while Wolf’s are very much of the politically correct variety.
But the main difference, I’d say, is in the provocation. Trump simply doesn’t go in for his “treatment.” He refuses, even when the popular kids—including many among his supposed allies—constantly tell him to do so. He simply punches back, sometimes pre-emptively.
The question for those of us on the sidelines is this: if you feel genuinely harassed and constantly smeared, who you gonna call? For me, it would be a Nedra-buster like Trump. No contest. A lot more Americans are feeling the same way, thanks to acts like Wolf’s.
But I also believe we should pray for folks like Wolf when we ponder such things. And we should also reply: “No. I’m not going back.” Enough is enough.