We think it was Carlin’s. Or it might have been Robert Klein’s. Or maybe it was just low-hanging fruit, waiting to be plucked.
The premise of Charlie the Tuna — see, you know where this is going already — was that he was desperate to be chosen. Dying, even. He wanted to be good enough, make the team. Charlie didn’t want to be left behind.
But good enough for what? To be eaten, of course. That was unspoken in the commercials, which made it ripe for comedy. Just what is going on here? An anthropomorphic tuna with a deathwish?
Tuna may be smarter than that, but people aren’t. The very language we’re using — chosen, left behind — is deliberately evocative of the Rapture, and, in turn, evangelicals who pine for a Middle East Armageddon to hasten it. They want to be Chosen. They want to die.
They want the rest of us to die with them.
They fantasize about it, you know. They skip the Sermon on the Mount — boring! — and head straight for Revelation.
It’s in their soul, this need to be Chosen, this need to die, this need to be devoured. Catholicism makes the metaphor real — body & blood — but in the wrong direction. Evangelicals don’t want to be Goya’s Saturn. They want to be the kid Saturn is eating.
Which isn’t quite what Goya’s painting depicts. Saturn’s devouring his kid because the kid’s a threat to him. It’s very Shakespearean, that. But the kid isn’t Charlie, is he? Charlie’s no threat. Charlie’s not good enough.
Donald Trump wore a mask in public Saturday. This should have been uneventful — he was visiting a hospital — but it was news because Donald Trump never wears a mask. Donald Trump has made a political issue out of not wearing masks. And a nation of Charlies has followed along, desperate to be beloved, desperate to die for him, desperate to be caught in the trawler’s net to satisfy him, to be devoured for his pleasure.
You’ve seen the rallies. It’s the closest white people get to having the Spirit in them, short of attending a charlatan’s tent revival.
White people could use better churches that way. They might be better-adjusted the rest of the week if they let it all hang out on Sunday.
But they don’t, alas. Instead they bottle it up inside, fearing mortal joy, fearing life itself in favor of a fabled afterlife, taking their solace in the fantastical story of a 2,000-year-old acid trip, wishing death upon the rest of us in a rotting sea while they’re swept up for somebody else’s dinner.
They would all wear masks if Donald Trump did. They would all skip the rallies if Donald Trump told them to. They would all be decent towards the rest of us if Donald Trump desired it. But it wouldn’t be for the safety and decency. They’d all still be Charlie, desperate to be devoured. The net just changed its shape, is all.
And hey, whatever works, whatever buys the rest of us time to deal with this mess. Just remember, while we may be free of Donald Trump soon, we still won’t be free of these people, the 40 percent of us — Still! Even now! — who would vote for him again.
Because the thing you need to know about Charlie is that there’s always another net.