Vote 1 Michael Palin

Michael Palin in BrazilLike millions of other cube monkeys, the first I heard of John McCain's choice of running mate was the headline 'McCain picks Palin!' flashing across the bottom of my electric connection. I instantly thought, wow, bold move, Mac, wow, Michael Palin! ... and then inevitably remembered, dang, Palin is a Limey, born and raised on the moist island that used to run the world and now gazes enviously at Ireland, he can't be vice president, can he?

Well, no, he can't, but just for a minute let us daydream of a Michael Palin candidacy. It wouldn't be so bad. Engineering background — father worked in steel. Shakespeare buff — once played all the parts at once, an epic feat indicating brilliance or insanity or both. Able writer in various forms, excellent public speaker, comfortable in front of camera.

Understands women — has certainly worn his fair share of dresses over the years. Big animal rights man, especially with deceased parrots. Understands commerce, especially cheese industry. Comfortable with various religious traditions; has played a minister and a Catholic cardinal. Astute student of urban transportation issues. Very well travelled, alert and attentive to cultural differences and humour.

He's fascinated by art and artists — he's even written a play, the one serious flaw in his resume. Reportedly currently working on a documentary about the First World War, the careful study of which should send any sensible soul sprinting toward other ways to solve geopolitical conflicts than dismembering the enemy by the millions. Interested in science — has an asteroid named after him, which is a sentence you hardly ever see.

Attentive to troubled children — founded a centre to help kids who stammer. Seems to be addicted to trains, which is a good sign in a world where more public transportation for less energy cost is rocketing to the top of the project pile.

Best of all, perhaps, about Vice President Michael Palin, if we could get past those pesky citizenship requirements (which are certainly being reviewed by a team of lawyers in the office of the Governor of California) is that he has a sense of humour, of the absurd, of the constant goofiness of life.

Seems to me that a true sense of humour is a real sign of maturity both in individuals and in societies; real humour, after all (I don't mean snarky irony, or the cruel laughing at the travails of others) is essentially democratic and merciful.

Real humour acknowledges that we are all battered by fate and luck, subject at any moment to loss of dignity and balance, our expectations utterly dashed, or sent careening in new directions. Humour, finally, is a gentle admission that most of the time what we expect and prepare is not what happens, and we must accept this with grace and grin, or go mad trying to control the uncontrollable.

No one, as Michael Palin once said, expects the Spanish Inquisition, and perhaps he meant not the Catholic secret police of old Spain, but the much larger empire of chance.

With real respect for Governor Sarah Palin of Alaska — I mean, the woman led her high school basketball team to a state title, how cool is that? — didn't you, too, think the headline meant Michael Palin? Didn't you too think, just for an instant, that having a wild sense of humour in the White House would be an improvement on arrogance, hubris, incoherence, and men lying so thoroughly we are surprised their lips don't fall off?

Maybe that instant should be a lesson for us — not that we should elect more comedians, for we seem to have elected a veritable parade of those in recent years, but that we should elect someone who understands that deep, real, genuine laughter is a gift, a grace, maybe a prayer.

Brian DoyleBrian Doyle is the editor of Portland Magazine at the University of Portland, and the author most recently of Thirsty for the Joy: Australian & American Voices, a finalist for the 2008 Oregon Book Award.

Topic tags: brian doyle, sarah palin, john mccain, michael palin, us elections, monty python



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Glad it wasn't just me!
Sandie Cornish | 18 September 2008

'Humour, finally, is a gentle admission that most of the time what we expect and prepare is not what happens, and we must accept this with grace and grin, or go mad trying to control the uncontrollable.'

This sentence is the most unfunny part of a very funny piece, but it is the most wise. Thanks, Brian!
ROBERT BLAIR KAISER | 19 September 2008

I wrote a poem about Michael palin. I hope the editors don't mind if I paste it in here. As a contribution. Thanks.

Around and around and around…

Poor Michael Palin
He could go to the ends of the earth
The end of the universe

Poor Michael Palin
The ‘hopeless blind faith’ of indigenous people
Carrying a huge statue of the Virgin

Poor Michael Palin
‘about a ton in weight’
Struggling under the load of his scepticism

Poor Michael Palin
Looking on incredulous -
‘They’re vying with each other to keep it up’

Poor Michael Palin
The noise building; fire crackers, bells ringing,

Poor Michael Palin
Eyes pleading for something to believe in…

Poor Michael Palin
Adjusting his knapsack, strangled by the strap,

Poor Michael Palin
The Virgin coming towards him…

Poor Michael palin’ into insignificance…
James Morris | 25 September 2008


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