Imagine a king’s court where the royals sit on elevated platforms, in elaborate chairs made of gold, and comfortably cushion their rumps with red velvet. The king and queen have their crowns and stately attire on. The court itself welcomes the immaculately dressed lords and ladies. Perhaps a string quartet is playing off to the side, and prim and proper dance, food rituals, and status are held in high esteem. There are both spoken and unspoken rules that revolve around attire, speech, dance, food, as well as how to approach and speak to the king and queen. It is a tranquil scene. It is a scene of status quo.
Enter the court jester. He pays no attention to the rules of the court. In fact, he sees it as his job to question the rules through his actions. He jumps up on the large dinner table, grabs an apple from a lord, takes a bite, and then throws it against the wall. He then goes over to the musicians, and plucks violently at the strings of a cello in an abstract form of music. He pays no attention to the royals, but rather makes fun of their clothes, rings, and proper ways of doing things.
The jester plays his part. Many are offended by his actions, but a few understand both his motives as well as his engagements. He is bringing to light the spoken and unspoken rules of the court, and is questioning them. He is curious about the status quo and who its guardians truly are. What will be the result of his actions? Will the ones who are mostly offended rein him in out of fear and/or nostalgia? Will the ones who understand him join in with his questioning and enact change? Perhaps it is not the court jester’s role to provide these answers, but to provide the questions in order for prince and pauper to debate and decide.
In my opinion, the court jesters of today’s political landscape come from two different extremes, but are essentially doing the same task. They are bringing to light both the seen and unseen rules of American society, and are publically questioning them. On the right, we have Donald Trump, and on the left we have the Black Lives Matter movement. Trump invites himself into the American political process, but does not play by the rules that television watching Americans are used to. He disrupts the social rules of order by calling into question, “that’s just the way it is.” By doing so, he is attracting a large following, while those who are used to “that’s just the way it is” are scratching their heads.
This is happening within the Black Lives Matter movement as well. American blacks are showing white Americans that there are spaces that remain “black,” and there are spaces that remain “white.” It is an unspoken rule that has now been exposed. One reason blacks seem to be “disrupting” white democratic presidential candidates is to reveal “white space” and to expose in a very micro-way what is and has happened in this country on a macro level.
The combination of having court jesters on either side disrupts the status quo, and it will be up to Americans to reflect on what this means going forward. What will be the result of their actions? Will the ones who are mostly offended rein these movements in out of fear and/or nostalgia? Will the ones who understand them join in with their questioning and enact change? Perhaps it is not the court jester’s role to provide these answers, but to provide the questions in order for prince and pauper to debate and decide.