David Bell is a Cincinnati native and an associate professor of English at Western Kentucky University in Bowling Green, Kentucky. His seventh novel, "Bring Her Home," will be released by Berkley/Penguin in July.
BOWLING GREEN, Ky. -- We’ve all had a lot of fun at Kellyanne Conway’s expense.
By now you know that one of President Donald Trump’s top advisers, the woman who gave us the memorable, hashtaggable phrase “alternative facts,” went on MSNBC and made reference to “the Bowling Green Massacre,” an event that never actually happened. Her statement is the news equivalent of an email from a Nigerian prince, or a promise that fat-free tastes just as delicious as the real thing.
(And while we’re on the subject of MSNBC, can I ask what exactly Chris Matthews was thinking when Conway said that? He didn’t even blink. Can he really call the show “Hardball” if he lets this kind of nonsense blow past him?)
As a native Cincinnatian (West Side, to be clear) now living and working in Bowling Green, Kentucky, it ended up being a real treat seeing the endless flow of memes and hashtags about our little city. I could have spent an entire day liking and retweeting and laughing as friends from near and far joined in the mockery of yet another outrageous lie told by the administration.
We’re not used to that kind of attention here in quiet Bowling Green. Sure, we gave the world both noted professional wrestler Hillbilly Jim and legendary film director John Carpenter. Our football team won the Boca Raton Bowl this year. Convincingly, I might add. And our blob-like mascot, Big Red, makes regular appearances on ESPN.
Most of all, everyone remembers February 2014 when a sinkhole opened up beneath the National Corvette Museum, swallowing eight vintage cars. (Sinkholes are a fact of life here. We live on top of the world’s largest cave system.)
In true Bowling Green can-do spirit, the museum left the hole in place and charged admission to come in and see it. Attendance at the museum went up. Now that’s making America great again!
By now, just a couple of days after Conway’s false claim, the memes and the tweets are fading from our feeds. People are posting about the Super Bowl or “Saturday Night Live.” I suspect we’re all holding our collective breath, waiting for the next alternative fact or outrageous tweet from the White House.
And maybe one is just about to drop. As I write this, we’re hours away from the President’s interview with Bill O’Reilly, the one in which President Trump posits a moral equivalence between Putin’s Russia and the United States. Does this mean the President believes in the assassination of political foes? Can we all just admit how much outrage there would be on the right if President Obama or Hilary Clinton had said such a thing?
I suspect the joy we feel and the yuks we have when such an absurd #alternativefact comes out is because it feels damn good to laugh. For weeks and months now, a lot of us have felt some combination of anger and powerlessness in the face of the Trump Train. One way to fight back is to march. Another is to call representatives and demand action or resistance.
But laughter and satire work, too. So “Saturday Night Live” may find itself in an Alec Baldwin-led heyday. Heck, on Friday I even went so far as to create my first meme. An empty key lime pie yogurt cup and a dirty spoon. #anotherbowlinggreenmassacre #neverforget
Okay, so I probably don’t have a future as a viral meme generator.
But there is a quality I learned growing up on the mean streets of the West Side. It’s a quality my wife, who hails from the East Coast, often comments on when she spends a lot of time with my family or childhood friends. It’s a certain stubborn toughness, a low tolerance for BS that we all seem to acquire as we grow up eating our Skyline and being scolded by nuns and listening to Marty Brennaman tell it like it is on the radio.
And it’s that skill, that ability to sniff out a phony, that we all need now more than ever. Because an additional wave of lies is sure to come. Maybe one is crawling across the cable news screen right now. The crowd was huge. The ovation was standing. The ban isn’t a ban. My hands are gigantic.
Believe at your own risk.
And if you fall for any of them, you should then come to Bowling Green. I know of a beautiful hole in the ground I can sell you.