‘Tis the Season, As Republicans
Gather Around the Yule Tree
Fully Armed, Kids Included
Our distress was caused by the terrifying photo that appeared at the top Ms. Petri’s Dec. 9 column.
Being devoted fans, we immediately began making excuses.
“This happens to humorists,” I intoned gravely. “From time to time, they cross the line separating funny from foul.”
“Mistakes are part of the creative process,” Mr. O agreed. He even speculated that the offending picture was not Ms. Petri’s invention, but borrowed from the likes of “Saturday Night Live” or the “The Onion.”
None of our guesses were correct.
First of all, the photo was not satirical, at least in the usual sense, in which a humorist concocts an absurd tableau in order to poke fun at the subjects of her scorn.
Instead, it was meant the other way around, as a political jab to rile people just like Ms. Petri, idealists generally rooted in basic human principles.
The photo actually was the handiwork of a member of Congress, Rep. Thomas Massie, a Kentucky Republican, who adopted a holiday theme, gathering his family gathered in front of their Christmas tree.
Pop, Ma and their five little ‘uns all are holding combat-style weapons. The guns are ugly, massive and frightening. Scarier still are the family’s smirking, smiling faces, especially Pop’s, whose nasty grin is reminiscent of Jack Nicholson’s maniacal mug in the movie “The Shining.”
Massie sent the photo over Twitter on Oct. 4, just four days after a student at a school in Oxford, Mich. slaughtered four classmates and wounded seven with a gun his father had bought days earlier as a Christmas present.
Whether Massie deliberately timed his Christmas message to taunt the shooting victims and their mourners isn’t clear. Either way, it is a sacrilege.
Not that Massie cared. He said he was delighted by the huge circulation the photo got on social media. And he cleverly turned the tables on his critics, portraying them as grandstanding opportunists.
“They focus on one thing that was the biggest thing in the media that they could use to try and take me down,” Massie told an interviewer. “But it’s not work(ing). I’m going to double down. I’m never going to delete that picture.”
MASSIE NEEDN'T HAVE WORRIED about his card disappearing.
Three days later, fellow Republican Rep. Lauren Boebert of Colorado, Tweeted her own photo, with her kids in front of their tree, each holding a weapon from the family arsenal.
Boebert assured Massie that he had her support: “The Boeberts have your six, @RepThomasMassie!” Hilariously, Boebert picked up on Massie’s lighthearted comment, imploring Santa to “please bring ammo.” Wisecracked Boebert: “No spare ammo for you, though.”
Massie is a Massachusetts Institute of Technology graduate who says he founded a high-tech business based on research he did as a student. His philosophy is Libertarian, meaning he’s offended both Democrats and fellow Republicans, while staying firmly in the Republican camp.
BUT WE DIGRESS. Petri’s column was inspired by Massie’s gun-themed Christmas card, but despite her obvious hard work at making fun of the photo, she flopped.
Petri imagined a similar holiday card featuring her own family, saying that just like its Republican counterpart, her card was designed to “to enrage snowflakes. (It is nearly winter, after all.”)
Petri’s pretend family included not only her kids, but their guns, each with its own name and personality:
“Bradley (our M-60 machine gun) is a weapon of war that has been used from Vietnam to Afghanistan! Ours is modified for civilian use, so it can’t fire as many rounds per minute as its fully automatic cousins; we’re jealous!”
"Indeed, humor has been one of the casualties of the Republican attack on decency and democracy,” Mr. O noted.
“It’s been hard to find much to laugh about in the deeds and words of Donald Trump and his merry band,” he added. “They’re so outlandish that the usual tools of the humorist’s trade – exaggeration and caricature – just aren’t up to the job.”
"IT'S ACTUALLY ABOUT SHAME," I said.
“I don’t follow you,” said Mr. O.
“Well,” I said, “it used to be that when a politician was caught with his hand in the cookie jar or up someone’s panties, that he needed to exit public life immediately, so he could ‘spend more times with my family.’”
“But since Trump, that’s no longer the case,” Mr. O continued. “One of Trump’s genuine innovations has been to abolish shame, so it’s no longer a factor in a politician’s success or failure.”
Mr. O had it exactly right.
Trump and his Republicans are not shamed by Trump’s embrace of dictators like Putin. They’re not bothered by his boasts about his sexual attacks on women. Not ashamed when he incited a mob attack on the Capitol to derail the election. Not ashamed of name-calling, personal insults, racism, their Leader's Big Lie or his thousands of little lies.
“The beneficiaries are ghouls like Reps. Massie and Boebert,” I said. “Now they can say anything, do anything. Nothing is sacred. Surely not Christmas. Surely not the slaughter of children by other children armed with grownup guns.”
“It’s easy to be discouraged,” Mr. O grumbled. “You would have thought that the election would have ended the Trump debacle. Instead, Republicans are energized, moving on many fronts to undermine the next election.”
“It’s not impossible to imagine Donald Trump back in the White House,” I agreed.
"WHAT'S THE ANSWER?“ Mr. O asked.
“Well, how should we know?” I said. “We’re just a sweet dog and a cute opossum. Maybe our best bet is to take Republicans seriously as crazed, dangerous extremists, remembering that most folks are decent, honest and sane.”
“You mean, we have to trust that, put to a vote, most people wouldn’t welcome a Christmas card featuring kids holding guns that can kill other kids who happened to go to school,” he said.
“Especially at this time of year,” I said.
“It being a merry moment of hope and good will and all that sort of thing,” the opossum said.
‘Tis the season. So, from both of us, good tidings to one and all.