U.S. Elections

Size Matters

It’s really true—beyond the sexual innuendo.

In America we often claim that we are for the underdog, but the truth is we are almost always captivated by size. We expect the largest sumo wrestler to win the match, we admire the woman with the biggest fortune and we look up to the tallest person. We expect our teams to amass the most wins, we admire the man with the largest real estate holdings and we look up to the person with the most power—whatever his or her size may actually be.

Yes, size matters. And underlying all considerations of size is the sexual myth. It causes women to obtain breast augmentation and men to seek penile enlargement. Of course, they are both illusional and delusional. Neither has the desired impact of greater sexual satisfaction. But people pursue them anyway. And this passion for sexual prowess informs every other concern.

Indeed, size matters. Consider this past year and the Republican primary season. The GOP has demonstrated an outsized obsession with size. Because Donald Trump is the richest and, arguably, most famous of the candidates, he has consumed the most attention. He hasn’t had much to say. More accurately, he’s had a lot to say, buy it has not been positive, uplifting or enlightening. Nonetheless, an acquiescent media and captivated public have repeated and retweeted every Trump comment—the inane, the insulting and the occasionally innocuous.

Due to the size of Trump’s following, he has commanded center stage in every major debate.The Republican primary season, and by extension, the American public have been underserved by this infatuation with his size. Whatever concepts and policies might be floating around the Republican universe, they have gone unreported and unexamined. Instead, we have been reminded that size matters.

Marco Rubio bowed out of the race. That may not be much of a loss. For what was once thought to be a strength—his youth—turned out to be merely an arrested adolescence. Like many a young man he could not get past sex and when he was unable to elevate the political discourse he sank to a school yard taunt. Noting that Donald Trump has small hands for his height he said, “And you know what they say about guys with small hands.” Cue laughter—from everybody. It’s funny. Unfortunately it’s also infantile.

And yet, size does matter. We just need to get it right. So what if he has small hands. The size of any of Trumpelina’s appendages should be of no concern to the public. Hans Christian Andersen provided a happy ending for the little critter—in a far off land. Cue wisp of hope and sigh of relief.

There is, however, one area of deep concern. And that would, of course, be the size of Trump’s brain—sort of. To listen to Trump he would suggest that his brain is as big as an elephant’s. Sounds impressive. After all, an elephant brain is four times the size of ours. The only problem is that the elephant is not as intelligent as we are, nor does it possess the same cognitive capabilities.

Still, size matters. To avoid a long scientific exposé, let me truncate the work of Brazilian neuroscientist Suzana Herculano-Houzel. Our brains are smaller than those of elephants and our brains contain less neurons. How then, does size still matter? It matters when measured by numbers. Only the human brain contains 16 billion neurons packed into the cerebral cortex. But sustaining those neurons requires a phenomenal amount of energy. The secret to reasoning and contemplation lies in the fact that only human beings cook their food. This enables us to absorb more calories more quickly, freeing time for cognition, for art, for all types of intellectual pursuits.

It seems to me that one of two possibilities exist for explaining Donald Trump. First, his brain really is the size of an elephant’s—larger, heavier, having more overall neurons than ours, but with substantially less in the cerebral cortex. Or, he is eating too much raw food, thus rendering him incapable of substantial intellectual activity.

I suggest that between now and the Republican convention in July, someone should start cooking Donald’s food. Otherwise the delegates may nominate a primate with a substantially deficient cerebral cortex.

Then again, like his namesake, Trumpelina could just marry a flower-fairy prince and fly off to a far land and take up residence in an appropriately sized Trump Tower.

The Uncle Syndrome

Every family has one. The funny, sometimes crazy, uncle. You know the one I mean. He shows up at Thanksgiving sporting a Doc Brown haircut, as if he were an original stand in for Christopher Lloyd in Back to the Future. He is the uncle dazed by reality—the “my mind is made up don’t confuse me with the facts” guy. Sometimes he has a little too much egg nog, the spiked kind. Or else he drinks a few too many beers. But whatever the cause of his inebriation he’s the uncle who is politically incorrect. In his heart he may not be a racist. But at the holidays, it’s anybody’s guess what will come out of his mouth.

In spite of all that, this is the uncle everybody loves. He’s the one who can be very funny even when he’s being insulting. He’s the one who makes everybody feel a part of the family—his daggers are tossed with equal opportunity. Without him family gatherings and holidays would not be the same.

America has an uncle, too. Uncle Sam. He is not so much a person as a symbol, a personification of the country that goes back as far as the War of 1812. His initials, like those of the nation, are U.S. He transcends person and party and the country wouldn’t be the same without him. And whoever ascends to the presidency is a stand in for lovable Uncle Sam.

This analogy comes to mind because it is the only way I can comprehend some of the current presidential candidates. It certainly seems as if some of them want to be our uncle. Bernie Sanders is the Doc Brown uncle. He has the hair and the passionate, almost wild, look in his eyes. Of course, in the movies Doc Brown’s genius proved his passion right.

Ted Cruz is the dazed uncle. He is not to be distracted by any sense of reality or fact. His conclusions are pre-conceived. And his mind so closed that he alone could not understand the irony of reading
Green Eggs and Ham while filibustering the Senate because of affordable health care. “Just try it,” Sam-I-Am might say. Instead, he chose to attempt to bring the country to a halt.

But the uncle who has had too much egg nog is Donald Trump. Actually he needs no egg nog or beer or any other libation. His drunk is sourced from attention and as such he never descends from the high. Not content to be politically incorrect, he is racist and offensive at every turn. This is a delusional kind of drunk, though. The funny family uncle is lovable. Trump? The funny family uncle is, well, funny. Trump? The funny family uncle does not intentionally insult. Trump? The funny family uncle is an asset to the family. Trump? Well, you get the point.

Here’s something to consider during this campaign. America is many wonderful things and there are many ways of belonging. Most of us, whether born here or immigrants, feel it in our bones. This is a place we love and want to be. America is the place where we fit in. It is the place where we can work to make it and the world better.

But despite the strong and compassionate patriotism evoked by the Uncle Sam symbolism, America is not a family. And we are not electing an uncle, funny or otherwise. And if we were, Donald Trump does not fit the bill. Perhaps the kindest thing we as a nation can do for him is to ignore him, to strip him of attention. It will not make him a sensitive, thoughtful and caring person. Those kinds of miracles are beyond us. But it’s the only way he’ll sober up and shut up. Then the rest of us can get on with the business of electing someone dignified enough to be president.