I’ve found a friend in Jesus: Exit Doctor Carson, stage right.
If Trump has tiny hands with stubby little fingers, the hands of a pygmy chimpanzee, well then Carson has gifted hands, healing hands, the hands of a Swedish masseuse…
In a further blow to Cuba Gooding Jr’s faltering career, Ben Carson announced that he “sees no path forward” for his Presidential run. Accordingly, he has withdrawn from tomorrow’s GOP debate (Debate 11 for those keeping score), presumably realizing that he has been receiving such little speaking time in the last few debates that carrying on isn’t going to increase his profile any further nor is it going to sell him any more books.
I find myself admiring (begrudgingly) Carson when that claim is made about him – that his candidacy was never serious, it was only ever about his profile and book sales. I rather wished some novelists tried a similar tack. Roth, Franzen and DeLillo running in an effort to increase their sales and somehow finding an unexpected connection with Middle America; perhaps they’d turn out to be demagogues who we’d end up terrified of in case they got themselves elected to higher office. Joyce Carol Oates and Jonathan Franzen as elected officials would – I imagine – be insufferable. Upton Sinclair and Gore Vidal are the only novelists that spring to mind as having ran for office*. Still, rather a novelist trying to pass themselves off as a politician than a politician trying to pass themselves off as a novelist – looking at you, Gary Hart and Newt Gingrich.
But there is more to Carson than just his inspirational books and highly remunerated speaking engagements; he also added a much needed touch of the absurd to this election. The grotesque can be found everywhere in Election 2016, so moments of absurdism, by contrast, are almost to be welcomed. There has been nothing more absurdist this cycle than those individual who, as recently as yesterday, continued to try to find meaning in the soporific mutterings of Doctor Carson, and, despite odd pronouncements about fruit salad and pyramids, still felt they could, in good faith, cast their ballot for him.
Even though he, and his gifted hands, are now gone, the memories linger. We’ll always have the rap campaign ad – the idea that some shitty hip-hop would help him appeal to young African-American males. Question marks about Carson’s oft-repeated story that as a teenager he tried to stab another teen. We all know those are healing hands, not fighting hands. But, most of all, we’ll always have that portrait of Ben and Jesus Christ that hangs proudly in Ben’s office. They are both dressed in transfiguration white – Ben is in a white jacket with the wide lapels favored by patrons of Studio 54, Jesus is in what looks suspiciously like a bath gown – and Jesus’ right hand rests on Ben’s shoulders while his open left hand is raised towards the viewer. Jesus’ face seems to say, “this guy, this guy is the one with the real healing hands.” And yet not even a Messiah could raise this campaign from the dead.
*Thinking specifically of America here. Disraeli the obvious counterexample, and if we include theatre there’s Václav Havel.