While this country was living through the latest episode of our TV reality show of a presidential race, I was away in Ireland, where I met a donkey named Bertie.
Bertie has it pretty good, living a donkey's life in a field overlooking the hills down the rugged Atlantic coast, eating hay and oats and apples offered from the lunches of passing schoolchildren. He was named for former Irish Prime Minister Bertie Ahern, who left office amid allegations of financial improprieties, which he denied, a storyline as American as apple pie.
Bertie's owner said he was not the first Irishman to name his jackass after a politician.
When a stranger strikes up a conversation with you over there, the first and most popular topic is always the weather, which changes often and matters a lot. Wasn't today so much better than yesterday, people keep saying? A sunny day is remarked upon like an unexpected present left on your doorstep.
You would think being an ocean away would also mean you did not have to deal, at least for a little while, with this presidential primary season we are currently weathering. You would be wrong. Once people figure out you are American, they would very much like to talk about how this bombastic billionaire with the hair, this Mr. Trump, has gotten this far. They want to talk about his views on everything from immigration (no) to women (preferably hot). Essentially they want to know how he went from cartoon character to serious contender, and one with rather alarming implications for the rest of the world. They ask this as if you had any actual idea of how this could possibly have happened.
Reaction ranged from amusement (one man spoke of dual citizenship so he could vote for Trump and watch the show) to consternation to incredulity involving much shaking of heads. Mostly that last one.
Here was another thing, politics-wise: the remarkable amount they know about us.
Upon learning that we came from Florida, a man pouring Guinness in a quiet country pub went on at length about the improbable implosion of Jeb, the nuances of Charlie Crist's last loss and how it could happen that our state elected Rick Scott not once but twice. He wondered how far Pam Bondi's career might go. The average American voter standing behind you at a Tampa 7-Eleven wouldn't know as much about our government as some people we met there. It wasn't voyeurism, just educated people with a genuine interest in the world.
While we were gone, it seems things here proceeded apace, with Trump and Hillary easily taking New York, with Bernie and Ted still scrapping away. We're home now, and I have to say it does not appear much progress has been made in removing the absurd from our politics — national, state or local. A former county commissioner who left politics under a cloud over how his wife procured a certain vacation home could well get re-elected by an amnesiac electorate. Rick Scott's future could be bright. And so it goes.
Back at home, my town is urban-chicken friendly for hipsters who want fresh eggs even while living in the city. Still, I don't think code enforcement would be amused by a backyard Bertie, even if it was a donkey named Donald.
Contact Sue Carlton at [email protected]