The first time age was a big issue in a presidential election was back in 1840. William Henry Harrison, the Whig candidate, was 67 and his opponents referred to him as “a living mass of ruined matter.”
(Gail Collins, “The Presidency Is an Old Boys’ Club,” NYTimes, 3-4-20)
“A living mass of ruined matter” is both quaint with restraint and boldly specific in a way that gives it color and power from its far remove, especially compared to today’s squalid trash talk.
I’ve reflected on the presumptive release furnished by curses and insults, and whether they are a legitimate outlet for horror, or else a vile indulgence best risen above by persons of character and taste. Can’t decide.
Is it a crown virus weighting my synapses? I’ve been possessed of the notion that we’re each a walking microbiome, and that the embodied spew and stew of some individuals may be degenerate and feculent beyond the average, “unpresidented” if you will. The awful phrase “sewage in a suit” hatches in my head.
What’s seductive about “sewage in a suit,” besides its stark unwontedness, is the sibilant “ooh”-nicity of alliteration that grabs even the vowel by its purpose.
But finally it is cruel — the “sewage in a suit” trope. Imputing to another God’s creature a preternatural fetor is, at bottom, lower than one wants to stoop, no matter the depravity that aches for it.
(c) 2020 JMN