I've gotta be honest; I'm afraid of clowns. I realize that clowns, in most cases, are simply people with colored wigs and strange makeup. But how creepy is it to see someone staring you directly in the eyes, with a painted silly grin on their face, while they twist a balloon into the shape of a dog?
The fear of clowns is not really an uncommon thing. Everyone from Kramer to Ohio State fans has been known to come down with a case of coulrophobia. It’s been estimated that about one in every ten people is afflicted with the fear of clowns.
It’s not just the big red nose and artificially curly hair that causes people to tremble. Even an anthropomorphic buckeye nut can introduce unwanted irrational reactions to the presence of a creature not found in nature. According to the Cleveland Clinic, people “may be reacting to a clown’s colorful makeup. This disguise hides a clown’s facial features and distorts facial expressions, creating feelings of distrust.” Symptoms can include increased heart rate, feelings of terror, pale skin, and profuse sweating.
My first experience at a circus involved a pit show where a small, rickety car with a sputtering engine was stuffed full of clowns. As more clowns entered the ring, they continued to fill the car, cramming it until they spilled out. They fought for the audience's attention as they did one crazy antic after another.
I don’t know any clowns personally, but when I was a kid, there was a whole troupe of clowns that came to my home (a coffeehouse and music venue). They came to perform a comedy variety show act. I both loved it and hated it. The midget that was married to a traditional heighted person was the most interesting to me. When he was not in costume, he still seemed like a clown. He had short fingers, told strange jokes, and pretended to steal my nose. He also ate cookies stacked one on top of the other like a sandwich rather than one cookie at a time.
Obviously, this is strange behavior, but it’s mild in comparison to some clowns. The 1980s movie Killer Klowns from Outer Space was an even more disturbing example of clown culture. These alien clowns not only startled you as they showed up suddenly in dark spaces, they also killed people in an attempt to terrorize a small town. Clown terror is a spectrum.
Coulrophobia is a real concern. For some people, it can be crippling, and I can totally understand why this is a serious public health issue. In most cases, we don’t need to reshape our entire lives around this fear. It’s not like these people are running for an elected office.
At least they didn’t used to.
Fighting for the Spotlight
Currently, the House and Senate are stuffed with characters that are bending into un-human-like political positions to get into Congress and shape the future of public policy. More than anything, they seem to be performing to get headlines.
Take the freshman congresswoman from Colorado, Representative Lauren Boebert. Just this week, she proved that women don’t have to sexualize themselves to succeed in business. They can also carry guns on their hip like cowboys and make jokes attacking their female and gay coworkers. Lauren was captured on video doing a speech to some supporters where she was critical of her peers in Washington. She said that Secretary Pete Buttigieg didn’t show up to work because he was too busy trying to “figure out how to chest feed.” Pete and Chastain just adopted twins, and Lauren is calling attention to the lack of mammaries in male parents.
She followed her homophobic comments with a dose of Islamophobia by suggesting Representative Ilhan Omar was a terrorist. Ilhan happens to be a Muslim and wears a head covering, which not only gets people searched at an airport but it also garners threatening accusations in congressional elevators. Lauren’s comment was, “I look to my left, and there she is: Ilhan Omar. And I said, ‘well, she doesn't have a backpack, we should be fine.’” Comedian Boebert was met with a mix of groans and cheers in the crowded bar. She delivered the punchline, “Oh, look, the jihad squad decided to show up for work today.”
Following the backlash, Representative Boebert issued an apology to any Muslim who may have been offended. Later, she got into a fight with Representative Omar on the phone, where Omar hung up on her and issued a statement saying that the conversation had become unproductive.
I get that our founding fathers, Aaron Burr and Alexander Hamilton, got in an argument, as depicted in the wildly successful hip-hop Broadway play Hamilton.
Sure. The argument ended in a duel. Okay, so one of them died. And not to ruin the ending of the historic play, but it also led to the downfall of Hamilton’s Federalist Party and disgrace and exile for Burr.
But that was 1804. I’m having a hard time picturing Ronald Reagan and Tip O'neill getting in a shootout. I’m no historian, but even engaging in hate speech seems out of character for those two. This kind of behavior feels like a new act in Washington.
The spotlights came on under the big top first just a few years ago. It was an orange-faced character with strange fluffy hair. He had a big nose and made bizarre facial expressions. He said goofy and sometimes shocking things.
Obviously, I’m talking about President Donald Trump. He won the presidency by talking about his dick size and issuing below-the-belt insults to his colleagues. He made wild claims about how Mexico would pay for our border wall or that he would pass a 2 trillion dollar infrastructure bill*.
*Okay, that last one was actually not as far-fetched for a normal President, but he didn’t end up getting it done because he was too busy being impeached twice. President Joe Biden did pass a similar bill in his first year in office.
It would take philosophical gymnastics to call Trump a champion of conservative family values or the Constitution, but he did lower taxes for the wealthy so who cares, right?
Since Trump paved the way, the party has become more like a performance than a group of lawmakers holding a highly regarded elected office. I’m not much of an HR expert, but I know that hate speech will get you fired from most jobs. But it’s become acceptable and part of the job for certain people in Congress. The examples are plentiful.
Congressman Paul Gosar shared an anime cartoon of him killing Representative Alexandria Ocasia-Cortez. When the House voted along party lines to censure him for it, he shared it yet again within minutes. His colleagues stood behind him.
Congressman Ronny Jackson, who is also a former White House physician, claimed the Omicron variant is a Democratic ploy to cheat in elections. He had previously backed Trump’s debunked claims of voter fraud after the last election.
Congressmen Matt Gaetz,, who is currently under investigation on sex trafficking allegations, has offered Kyle Rittenhouse an internship, not because of his qualifications, but for the headlines it got him – since he was acquitted of murder in a controversial case that effectively pitted BLM advocates against gun rights activists.
Senator Ted Cruz is calling Big Bird’s promotion of vaccines propaganda and posting satirical tweets about it. Meanwhile, Senator Rand Paul has said that Anthony Fauci needs to be prosecuted for causing the pandemic.
Congresswoman Majorie Taylor Green has gained notoriety for her viral shouting matches, starting when she accosted Alexandria Occasio-Cortez in the halls of Congress. She later yelled at Liz Cheney, calling her a joke for criticizing Trump for inciting the violence on January 6th. This week, Majorie picked another fight, saying Representative Nancy Mace is “the trash in the GOP conference" because Mace rebuked Boebert for her inflammatory comments.
Within the Republican party, you're allowed to do and say things that would get you fired from a TJ Maxx and most other companies. However, you are not allowed to vote your conscience if it goes against the party line.
So what is the Republican Party’s leadership supposed to do? Well, House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy is handling it. If by handling it, you mean asking Lauren to “talk” to Ilhan. He’s not pushing hard, though, because he needs each of the Republican Congressional Members’ votes to hold onto his role in Congress as a minority leader and speaker of the House if Republicans gain a majority in the mid-term election.
To be fair, the Democrats aren’t spotless. For example, President Joe Biden stutters. That's right, he stutters. It makes him sound absent-minded sometimes. He is not a good orator. Perhaps there are many other things to criticize, like how much money he is trying to spend right now.
But he is not a circus clown, and I am afraid of clowns.