A year ago at this time, I was chuckling over the conspiracy theories spouted by those who thought Democrats were organized enough to start the Second Civil War (and this was before they had two dozen candidates for president). Then I was guffawing from the results of the Twitter hashtags #SecondCivil-WarLetters and #CivilWarPotluck. As usual, there was too much potato salad and not enough napkins.
This year there were no wild conspiracies, but Twitter didn’t let me down, thanks to some historical goofs in the president’s speech on July 4: “The Continental Army suffered a bitter winter of Valley Forge, found glory across the waters of the Delaware, and seized victory from Cornwallis of Yorktown. Our army manned the air, it rammed the ramparts, it took over the airports, it did everything it had to do, and at Fort McHenry, under the rockets’ red glare, it had nothing but victory. When dawn came, the star-spangled banner waved defiant.”
Just so you know, there were no airports at the time of the Revolutionary War (or planes, for that matter), nor was the Battle of Fort McHenry that inspired the Star-Spangled Banner during that war (it was in the War of 1812 a couple of decades later). And by the way, Cornwallis was defeated at Yorktown; he was from London.
Before the fireworks had fizzled, people were weaving tales of the Battle of Baggage Claim (in which “Many lives were lost. And bags too,” per “Covfefe Jones, King of Shade”) and the like, using the hashtags #RevolutionaryWar Airports or #RevolutionaryWarAirportStories.
Never underestimate people with a weird sense of humor and a day or two off from work. Times like this almost make me wish I had a Twitter account so I could join in.
I mean, who knew George Washington was the original Top Gun Maverick? Sure seems that way according to Ryan Chapline’s tweet quoting the then-general as saying, “I perceive the necessity … the necessity for haste.”
An account called “Really-Don’tTrump” tweeted out: “Little-Known Fact: We won because so many British soldiers couldn’t fit their muskets in the overhead bin on their flights over.” I can’t even reach the overhead bins, which is one reason I don’t fly.
On Friday, the president told reporters that the gaffes were because a rain-soaked teleprompter suddenly stopped working. “By then, however,” wrote Julie Hinds of the Detroit Free Press, “social media already had proven that, in 2019, everyone is a comedian.”
As if to prove the point, Matt O’Malley, a member of Boston’s city council, channeled Longfellow/Paul Revere with “One if by land, two if by Gate C.”
As with the Second Civil War tweets, some of my favorites were the letters home from those fighting the Redcoats. “JackWBower” wrote: “My Dearest Rose, I’m afraid I must be the bearer of bad news. My flight has already been delayed a fortnight, and I fear it will be longer. The army has shut down the airport and the airplane will not be invented for 6 score and 7 years from now.”
Not to be outdone, Washington, channeled by “Shawna,” tweeted: “Dearest Martha, please find enclosed a tracking number for my lost luggage at Philadelphia. It shall arrive to Mount Vernon via carriage in 21-25 days. Also enclosed is a receipt for the cost of parking my horse at Dulles for the weekend.”
“Diane@hpochocolate1” wrote of the horrors of war. I’m still shaken. “Dearest, the battle for gate C4 was hard fought, but we prevailed. Alas, we ran out of ammunition, and had to lob our stores of Cinnabons at them. The sacrifices of war try our souls.”
And cinnamon is so soothing at times like this … alas …
It shouldn’t come as a surprise that people can usually find a way to relieve tension and laugh even at the worst of times. With such immediate audiences as those provided by social media, of course there will be jokes … some ill-advised and in need of apology and/or deletion, but jokes nonetheless.
Humor is one of the ways humans relate to each other, and leaders who make laughable gaffes will inevitably find themselves the butt of jokes. Just on Saturday Night Live, think of the portrayals of Jimmy Carter, George Bush, Bill Clinton (Phil Hartman’s McDonald’s sketch still cracks me up) and other presidents, politicians and world leaders.
If Twitter had been around in Lyndon Johnson’s day, I can just imagine the hashtag jokes that would circulate about the exceedingly vain and crude president, especially after the gall bladder surgery-scar and beagle-ears incidents.
The people in power, loved or despised, will always be targets for jokes, especially from those opposing them, but also from those on the same side. Laughter can unite us … well, except for the people who never get the joke and are always looking for offense.
One of the beauties of viral Twitter jokes like #RevolutionaryWarAirport-Stories is that they just naturally come to an end when people sense that the concept’s gotten stale, usually after two or three days.
I wish that would happen to the people who insist on keeping comments going on my column about toxic commenters a few weeks back. Let it die, guys.
Assistant Editor Brenda Looper is editorof the Voices page. Read her blog at blooper0223.
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