Screaming meemies and Howard Deanies
I wouldn't put too much stock in the anti-Trump celebration – aka commiseration – scheduled to take place in some big cities on the first anniversary of what his defectors view as his theft of the presidency. Threats to communally howl at the moon– even in broad daylight – are nothing more than another leftist attention-getting meme.
Yet it seems somehow irreverent to let this maniacal mockery pass without recalling another infamous "scream" in recent political history – that of contentious candidate Howard Dean in January 2004, after his disappointing third-place finish in the Iowa caucuses, having lost badly to ultimate Democratic standard-bearer John Kerry.
Dean's public comments in the wake of his defeat, which occurred around the anniversary date of Martin Luther King's birthday, became known as the "I Have a Scream" speech. Having watched the clip numerous times, I would concede that the condemnation of his supposed "over the top" behavior was not all that deserved. But it was enough to effectively end his bid as a serious contender among presidential wannabes.
Maybe my interest at the time was piqued by the fact that my son and his future wife – both ardent Dean supporters – had made the trek from the Pacific Northwest to frigid Iowa with the high-minded purpose of helping their maverick candidate. As it turned out, they were hugely disappointed even before the primary results were in. I recall them telling me that handing out pamphlets to mostly unreceptive voters on a street corner in subzero temperatures was the coldest and most miserable experience of their young, politically idealistic lives.
So by the time the army of young volunteers had gratefully huddled into a warm space to hear their idol's post-caucus remarks, they were wide open to just about any form of encouragement. Indeed, they never expected their hero's accelerating pitch to go viral – or for him to go nowhere in the campaign after that. He was merely regaling a group of earnest and disheartened supporters.
We've all heard the expression "I'm so angry, I could scream!" Well, why not do so in unison and in one like-minded voice? The participants in next month's event might even wear masks of Edvard Munch's famous painting, "The Scream" – part of some costume left over from Halloween, perhaps. Ironically, Munch, who died at age 81 in 1944, had never married and called his paintings his children. After his death, literally thousands of them were discovered in his farmhouse outside Oslo.
Many art critics consider "The Scream" an icon of modern art, a sort of Mona Lisa of our time. The serenity and self-possession of Leonardo da Vinci's "La Gioconda" has given way to Munch's very different definition of his own age, as one wracked with anxiety and uncertainty.
"The Scream" – of which the artist drew at least five popular versions – has been described as a "sexless, twisted, fetal-faced creature with mouth and eyes open wide in a shriek of horror." It is said to be a recreation of a vision that during his youth had seized Munch while he was taking a nature walk one evening with friends.
So there you have it: the scream is the perfect primordial metaphor by which to mark the frustrated modern left's inarticulate angst. The same folks who pretend to press for a "meaningful national conversation" about the issues that confront our country and the world are far more comfortable banding together and issuing forth an ear-splitting, blood-curdling cry to the skies – a sort of satisfying bowel movement of the psyche. It will make them feel a lot better. And if some of the verbal excrement falls on their sworn enemies, so be it.
In fact, they might consider bringing Dr. Dean out of the political mothballs to orchestrate the event.