Side Show Freaks – Why America is No Longer Great

A century ago, when the carnival would come to town, many people would make sure they brought enough money with them to not only see the main attractions, but to also see the side shows.  These events often would have a loud carnival barker enticing people to come in and see the two headed man, the bearded lady, or some other freak of nature (real or faked).

Over the last 30 or 40 years, we’ve seen the side shows move to Hollywood and television, as MTV first introduced us in the 1980s to New Wave performers that dressed in strange garb (Culture Club, anyone?). As time moved forward, and society went from 4 television channels to 20 to 200, the side shows came into the average home on a daily basis. People with no or little talent were able to get hit series, because of a fixation on the side show atraction. MTV’s Jack Ass series showed men with no talent doing stupid things in order to get ratings.

To be noticed, people with great talent found they had to add more and more of the side show into their own acts, just to keep up. Madonna went from singer to stripper, opening wide the door that would make the whorish careers of many former Disney former.

Imagine a woman with one of the best voices in the industry, who feels she must make her name by being a side show freak. She dresses in various levels of undress in many performances. Worse, to keep her fans interested, she must find stranger and freakier things to do. Arrive at an awards show in an egg? Sure. Go to another event dressed in raw meat? Why not?  It wasn’t until Tony Bennett saw her real talent that Lady Gaga was able to dress like a true lady and display her amazing voice without all the side show distraction. I hope she remains the elegant woman and singer she now is, and doesn’t fall back into the trap that so many other young actresses and singers find themselves.

Why is America no longer great? Because everything is now a side show.  Everyone must be entertained. And the entertainment value must increase exponentially each time. School and work cannot be too hard. Where colleges once were the bastion of free speech and thought, today’s fears of Micro-aggression and having one’s feelings hurt shuts down important discourse. A Republican Congress is too afraid of losing an election to stand up to a president who is skirting around Constitutional limits to his power.

When I was a kid, a young president spoke to us and told us to not ask what our country could do for us, but what we could do for our country. Today’s politicians clamber on top of one another to give people what they want, in exchange for their votes and tax money. People do not want to talk about $19 Trillion deficits,  near bankrupt Social Security and Medicare programs, failure in our dealings with China/Russia/Islam, failed wars on drugs and poverty, immigration, crony capitalism, etc.

Instead, our quality nightly news with Walter Cronkite has now become a 24 hour news cycle, focusing primarily on celebrity. Kim Kardashian gets more news play than most state governors.

Donald Trump is a symptom of this overall problem. Things are failing in Washington DC and elsewhere, and people are angry about it. However, instead of looking to logic and wisdom for solutions, they have sought out the freak side show answer, because it stokes their anger and emotions.

Donald doesn’t have to say much of substance. He just have to say that he’s rich and he’ll make everyone else rich. He will build a wall, the best wall anyone has ever built. It will be huge. And with such a simple patterned patter, he can stoke the emotions of those who have been raised on 140 character Tweets, and texts that do not require full sentences (or correctly spelled words, for that matter).

Along with the side show comes the expectations of the masses: whether a free IPhone, free medicine, or a leader that the masses relate to. There have always been freak side shows in presidential election years. Pat Paulsen ran for many years as a comic side show. I recall in 1984, attending a rally with a Democratic friend of mine, to see Geraldine Ferraro, only to be more entertained by the group with the “Elect Curly” sign. Through her entire speech, each one of her canned pauses got a “Nyuk, nyuk, nyuk” from them.

But where the side show once was found only on the edges of society (California for many of the strange left coast stuff), it has now become center stage. We are in the age of the Selfie, where celebrity is everyone’s pursuit, and we are willing to do whatever is necessary to gain attention. Sexting, tattoos, piercings, radical clothing, hair color, and more describe society today.

Trump relates with the masses, because he can get away with doing the things the masses would like to do. While other candidates seek to look presidential, the masses love Trump’s freak side show. They love it so much, it has moved him to the main ring! Can you imagine anyone else being able to say and do the things Trump does, and not only get away with it, but get more adulation from his minions? Trump boasted he could shoot someone in the streets, and people would still vote for him. The violence his masses show at his rallies, with his encouragement, shows just where we are in this. Not many candidates could successfully threaten the media (those who are against him) with destroying the First Amendment right to a free press, simply to protect him from their attacks.

So, what is wrong with bringing the side show to the center ring?

The French Revolution is upon us. Angry with the government and encouraged by the media of the day, the masses attacked one group (the royalists) to the next (moderates), until all that were left were the radical Jacobins. The media fed the masses the perfect diet of anger and emotion to lead them from one outrageous event to an even greater outrageous event, culminating in the Reign of Terror. Rather than logic and wisdom, kangaroo courts were formed that found many innocent people guilty. Thousands were slaughtered after being accused of wrongdoing, according to the new and ever-changing rules of the Revolution. The only way to end the madness was to revoke the freedoms briefly given to the French, and replace the Jacobins with a dictator: the emperor Napoleon. Napoleon was so loved by the people that even after his disastrous invasion of Russia, the people still followed him into two more major defeats.

It is time for America to wake up and see just how dangerous of a time we live in. The pride of this people is leading to its downfall, just as in the Book of Mormon. We risk losing our Constitutional guarantees of freedom and safety. I foresee the day when this nation will collapse under its own wicked weight, with the only remaining safe places being Zion and her stakes (D&C 45). I have no idea when such will happen, but as I see America embracing such side show freaks as the personal saviors, I cannot help but hope that Zion comes sooner than later.

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About rameumptom

Gerald (Rameumptom) Smith is a student of the gospel. Joining the Church of Jesus Christ when he was 16, he served a mission in Santa Cruz Bolivia (1978=1980). He is married to Ramona, has 3 stepchildren and 7 grandchildren. Retired Air Force (Aim High!). He has been on the Internet since 1986 when only colleges and military were online. Gerald has defended the gospel since the 1980s, and was on the first Latter-Day Saint email lists, including the late Bill Hamblin's Morm-Ant. Gerald has worked with FairMormon, More Good Foundation, LDS.Net and other pro-LDS online groups. He has blogged on the scriptures for over a decade at his site: Joel's Monastery ( He has the following degrees: AAS Computer Management, BS Resource Mgmt, MA Teaching/History. Gerald was the leader for the Tuskegee Alabama group, prior to it becoming a branch. He opened the door for missionary work to African Americans in Montgomery Alabama in the 1980s. He's served in two bishoprics, stake clerk, high council, HP group leader and several other callings over the years. While on his mission, he served as a counselor in a branch Relief Society presidency.

24 thoughts on “Side Show Freaks – Why America is No Longer Great

  1. I was thinking the same thing in general this morning when I saw several pictures of the most popular GOP candidate apparently mugging for the camera. He has a normal face but he uses it in a way that makes him look like a clown. I am fairly certain this is deliberate and in pursuit of more attention. When people make fun of his family name (Drumpf) they only add fuel to the fire of enthusiasm from his partisans. There are always people who have developed a knack for getting attention. It is condemnation of our culture that is becomes the primary reason to vote for someone. As has often been pointed out there are other candidates who are against illegal immigration but they don’t couch it in terms that appeal to the ‘natural man.’ Trump and Hillary are not really the problem. Both people have been chosen as leaders by others who display their character by making such a choice. Both have a history of flaunting their improper behavior and ignoring the limits of law and morality that most of us observe. King Noah is the archetype of this kind of ruler.

  2. “[H]e can stoke the emotions of those who have been raised on 140 character Tweets, and texts that do not require full sentences (or correctly spelled words, for that matter).”

    I think this might be misplaced. I’m pretty sure millennials overwhelmingly vote more liberal. At least at BYU there’s certainly no love for Trump, and it’s one of the most conservative of the nation’s schools, and Sanders’ campaign is almost completely driven by millennials; Trump’s looks nothing like his.

  3. Jack of Hearts:

    BYU is not representative of the nation, just like Utah is not representative of the majority of Mormons (at least not anymore).

    The point being that Trump’s followers are not looking for someone with actual solutions and direction. They are looking for someone who emotionally satisfies their anger. I suppose Nephi’s warning about Satan applies here, in that some are lulled away, while others are fomented into anger. Still, it requires a largely ignorant population to ignore (at best, embrace at worst) Hillary’s crimes or Trump’s dalliances and violent behavior.

  4. I am slightly more optimistic about America and her people than the post, but just barely. Several hundred years ago, my ascendants left Europe with their immediate families and came to America in search of a better life. I’ve often joked with my wife that, were I about 30 years younger with a different set of job skills, I would seriously consider trying to find greener pastures elsewhere. (Maybe too much International House Hunters on HGTV?) That’s a sad commentary on my feelings about living in the USA.

  5. The same Roman writers who condemned Nero for his unbridled spending and cruelty mentioned that he was popular with the common people. Much of his overspending was on circuses and theaters to entertain the masses. It is said that he used human torches (Christians) to light his palace gardens. Idaho, Wyoming and most probably Utah will stand out as states that did not give support to Trump and he has already made statements that are troubling, possibly with an eye to gaining the support of those who hate us. I have read that the establishment will try to use constitutional means to block both Trump and Hillary based on the lack of any winning candidate. Theoretically it is legal for Congress to select President Romney if the election is split three ways and no winner emerges. I feel fear when I read the cool analysis of how such a thing could happen (John Quincy Adams became president in this manner). With the outrage already displayed both by those on the left and Trump supporters, it would not be surprising if an opportunistic military leader conducted a coup with the support of both extremes. A Mormon president selected by the establishment could ignite a fire of resentment that would threaten the faithful.

  6. “Theoretically it is legal for Congress to select President Romney if the election is split three ways and no winner emerges. ”

    Only if Romney is one of the top three in the electoral college. Perhaps you knew this and were assuming Romney would be the third candidate, but it needs to be made explicit.

  7. Like Michelle Obama, I’ve come to a turning point in my attitude, equal and opposite to the one she navigated.

    For the first time in my life, I’m ashamed to be an American.

  8. The race of 1960 launched the TV campaign.

    The race of 2016 has launched the reality TV campaign.

    God help us. Please.

  9. BJ, IMO God has been slowly removing his hand of protection from this country for some time. I think it’s following an ancient pattern that I’ve read in a couple of books.

  10. Bookslinger,

    I agree. In addition to the oft-repeated scriptural warnings, our disintegration closely follows the pattern of decadence in earlier states. (1) a sustained period of prosperity, (2) the state’s political/military actors accumulating power by using that prosperity to factionalize the population with ever-increasing promises of more entertainment / resource distributions, (3) an increasing loss of interest in civic patriotism, family life, and native-citizen reproduction as the state does more and more, (4) the recruitment of more fecund and vigorous immigrant groups to alleviate the problems in #3 through cheap labor and/or military service, and (5) the newer group steadily absorbing the original civilization through reproduction, cultural importation and (as needed) violent military actions. The 4th and 5th centuries of the Roman west read (as does the Book of Mormon) like a prologue to our day.

  11. Another way of saying it, is that America is going for style over substance by voting for Trump. But Trump supporters would probably say the opposite. They claim he is the most “real” because he isn’t afraid to say what he thinks, whereas people like Rubio are too guarded, political, and diplomatic in their speech. It’s obvious that Trump is an ideological flip-flopper who only says things to get elected, but I think it is a mistake to assume that Trump supporters are morally groundless in their own ideology and politics. They support Trump, not merely because he is a celebrity. They support him because they see his wealth and celebrity status as a legitimate sign of talent, genius, and power. People are attracted to power. People are frustrated with traditional checks and balances politics, and they want a president that can actually exercise power, like a king. They want a superhero.

    I agree with your points on the side-show aspect of the entertainment industry. But I think it is a mistake to underestimate the legitimacy and power of Trump’s message, and the very real resonance it is making in the hearts of voters who DEEPLY care about what is best for America. Sure, voters are stupid. We all are. But Trump supporters are smart enough to put their hands in someone who knows how to wield and exercise real power, who knows “the art of the deal.” And that ultimately makes them smarter than voters who would rather put their trust in a Tea Party pariah who has no friends in Washington.

  12. “People do not want to talk about $19 Trillion deficits, near bankrupt Social Security and Medicare programs, failure in our dealings with China/Russia/Islam, failed wars on drugs and poverty, immigration, crony capitalism, etc.”

    Excuse me, but these were developed by the Johnson and Nixon administrations. The very ones that the people, apparently, wanted during their times. We are only seeing the chickens coming home to roost, and Romney is not our savior! He is part of the problem as the architect of what would later become Obamacare. Why people are supporting Trump is so far different than what this post believes that it is no wonder so many are bewildered. Again, I support and voted for Cruz, but unlike other I will be fine with Trump.

  13. History, history, history repeating itself.

    Thank you for your good analogy to the French Revolution, it’s very appropriate for the state we’re in here.

    This last week in Gosp Doct, which I was teaching, (Lesson 9, “My Heart Delights in the Words of Isaiah”), a comment was made about the ancient Israelites and kings. They always ran to the prophets when their enemies were at the gates begging for direction on what to do. The answer was always the same, “Keep the commandments, follow the prophet, and the Lord will take the rest!” I think the same is true for us today.

  14. Parroting the main stream lame media and agreeing with what Trump haters say is to agree with communists. The Republicans have turned communist ice and betrayed their party and this country. The Republicans rubber stamped everyrhing Obama wanted, falling all over themselves to do so.
    After Obama was reelected, those Republicans that oppose Trump gave Obama glowing accolades and reviews!
    Silence from everyone.

    The PAID protesters who go to Trump rallies to fight, provoke Trump supporters, destroy private property, and beat up police are funded by a World War II Nazi Jew killer, George Soros, real name Georgy Schwartz. He is a communist and funds dozens of innocent sounding groups. He owns Obama and many others on Capitol Hill. He funds Black Lives Matter (where was the outrage when they rioted and burned down Baltimore), Moveon, F#!k the Police, and more.

    If Trump is responsible for violence then by the same logic a woman is responsible for getting raped, Islam is the mother of terrorism (actually Islam is terrorism ) and the early Mormons deserved everything they got because of the hateful, inflammatory rhetoric by the leaders, and the Dantes invited violence also.

    Trump has a very sensible tax plan outlined and fair to everyone. Many economists are impressed with it. Trump has presented many of his plans on his campaign site. Trump is not an empty suit. He has been saying the same thing on many issues since the 1980s, it can be found on YouTube.

    Trump is not funded by the oligarchs that control the politicians. That is one reason why Trump is popular and why the oligarchs and their puppets are fighting Trump. The oligarchs know their tax payer funded gravy train is in jeopardy. And Trump knows all the corrupt mess that goes on.

    Yesterday the RNC came out and said the people do not have a right to vote who will run for president because the elites and oligarchs are the only smart ones in the country, and actually people should not be allowed to vote at all for anyone at any level becausecwe arw stupid peasants. Yet no one is talking about that disturbing communist comment and belief!!!!! Silence!!! And people are worried about Trump???!!!! No, be worried about the snobby, communist elites and politicians who want to silence our voice and take away our rights!!! Wake up and get a clue people.

    Romney (Mr Obamacare) is not going to save anything.. he is part of the corrupt system. How anyone can think he is a good member needs to do some research, as he knowingly…..knowingly….goes to struggling companies with the promise of helping, but instead loaded them with massive debt, unbeknownst to the company, to bankrupt them, and he walks away with millions. And he and his crooked buddies were found guilty of fraud in one case, and Romney pretends to know nothing about it.!! Yeah, riiiiiight. And today questions swirl around many things concerning Romney, and they are not good. If Mormons can judge Trump, I can judge Romney. Romney should not have participated in trying to thwart the will of We The People. He showed his true communist colors.

    It is time to bring out the guillotine and chop off heads in efgigy. No one complains when Muslums do it in the U.S. so I should have the same right to do effigies. And no one says a word about Black on Black, and Black on Cops, and Black on White violence. Oh, sorry, the cops and Whites deserve it, forgot. Only Blacks and Muslims have a right to be violent, along with communist groups who are paid to riot and cause violence.

    Just because someone is LDS does not automatically make them an honorable, good, honest doctrine believing and doctrine living Mormon.

  15. Jettboy,
    the huge deficit didn’t come along until GWBush and Obama. I do not believe that Romney is a savior. I do believe that on many issues he is conservative, and was a conservative governing a very liberal state. Yes, Obamacare does resemble what Massachusetts had, on some levels – but there was a key difference. Romney’s plan focused only on those without health care, while Obama changed the whole system, affecting even those happy with what they previously had. Still, I would go with other options, a voucher system that provides basic care or an HSA to everyone, for example.

    That said, I do not need the perfect president/solution. I just need a good one that I can trust to deliver on many or most of my issues. Romney would have been a decent president that I would not have had to plug my nose in order to vote for him. That he is voting for Ted Cruz is a good sign.

    You need to do some real study to find out what “communist” means, as your definition doesn’t come close to the real definition. Moderate Republicans do accept various forms of social-democracy or perhaps fascism – where the state may run some things in S-D, and in fascism the corporations work in conjunction with the state. Personally, I am not a Republican, but a Libertarian. I rooted for Rand Paul, and liked his father, Ron, very much. Many of the other bloggers here are either Libertarian, Libertarian-leaning, or conservative.

    Sadly, this is exactly a sign of what I wrote above. People are justifiably angry, but are choosing the most radical solution – just as in the French Revolution. And they choose it out of emotion, not actual knowledge or understanding.

    Trump has been all over the map on where he stands on issues. In just the past few years, he’s been for and against immigration, for Obamacare and against it, for Hillary and against her, etc. A close study of his finances shows that he’s played the line several times. A recent look shows that he and his father tried to skirt the government at one of his failing casinos, and got away with it.

    Trump’s 4 bankruptcies destroyed many people’s lives and shows that he is not as great a business man as he pretends to be (just that he has a nice Dad who is always willing to bail him out).

    Meanwhile, Romney created business, like Staples, and saved many from bankruptcy. In his business, he tried to save companies that were on the brink of collapse. Sometimes he had to kill off part of a company to save another part. That happens in regular businesses all the time. Do you cut half your employees to save the company, or do you allow the company to fail and everyone loses their jobs?
    As for Romney’s Mormon credentials, are you his bishop or stake president to determine his worthiness? Have you ever been called as a stake president, or served with a stake president closely? I previously was stake clerk to two different stake presidents. I was just released from my high council after 5.5 years, and know well what the Lord looks for in stake presidents. Knowing the quality of the men the Lord calls into these positions, I think your accusations of corruption and evil are misplaced at best, and dangerously wrong at worst. Just because his politics are different than yours, does not make him evil. We have GAs who are Republican, Democrat and probably some socialists in the mix, from other countries. Would you call any/all of them corrupt for voting for Romney or someone else you dislike?

    I actually do more than just listen to the mantra of a candidate. I research the person’s past, including statements, actions, and words. I did not vote for Obama, primarily because of the radical people he hung out with (Rev Wright, etc). Yet, many people voted for him because he seemed nice, he was black, or as Harry Reid noted – he spoke well for a black man (racism reaches into all groups, including Democrat Mormons).

    Your call for using guillotines in effigy shows the anger that is apparent in the Trump crowd. Yet, that is how things happened in the French Revolution: things began peacefully, moved to greater anger, the masses (fed by media and heroes) moved from one level of anger to the next. Suddenly, thousands were being judged guilty in kangaroo courts and killed violently. There is no restraint on the anger, as Trump encourages his people to hit protesters (offering to pay their legal fees). Really? Do we want that kind of hatred and anger running our country? Isn’t this the kind of hatred that Mormon and Ether warned against, which led to the annihilation of their peoples?

    Again, my statements above are proven by your own statements. You made many accusations about me, MStar, Romney and others, which do not apply. I am not Republican per se, but if I were to vote for one still running, it would be for the true conservative, Ted Cruz. Romney does not deserve your emotional ad hominem attacks that are based on nothing. And Trump’s history and those that follow him are reminiscent of the path Napoleon took to power.

    We live in a free nation (for now). You are free to elect whom you will. But just be warned of where your emotions can lead this nation. Just remember that Trump demolishes his enemies. You may be his friend today, but on his bad side tomorrow. He has a pattern in life, and is unrepentant of the bad things he does or says. He may indeed build a wall, but is our national soul worth the cost by having such a person as president?

    I will say that if he is elected, and ends up proving me wrong by being a great president and conservative, I will gladly eat my own words, here on this blog. But history tends to repeat itself, and as a historian, I don’t think I will be wrong. And e.g.g’s post is helping to prove me right….

  16. Joyce, thanks. I agree with your statement on “follow the prophet.” Too many members think they are following the prophet, when instead they are looking beyond the mark.
    The Bundy incident in Oregon is an example of this. They quoted the Book of Mormon to justify their actions against the government, but the Church disavowed their interpretation of scripture. Still, instead of backing down and following the prophetic guidance, they stayed and allowed the issues to lead to unfortunate death.
    That the majority of members in Utah and Idaho are not voting for Trump, that Glenn Beck and Mitt Romney are warning us about Trump, that Libertarians and true conservatives are against Trump, is a sign that there’s something wrong with this picture.
    What I know is that eventually Gadiantons are going to destroy our nation. At that time, people will have to decide to truly follow the prophet, or allow their emotions and anger dictate and drive them. Nephi warned us about lulling some away into carnal security, while others Satan stirs up to anger (2 Ne 28). We are in such a time now, as many hide in their comfort and video games, with more angry. And the anger is on all sides: blacks, whites, women, men, straight, gay, Republican, Democrat. Only those who follow the prophet and embrace Zion and her stakes will find refuge in that day (DC 45).

  17. One of my concerns is that no one talks about Hillary. That most of the vindictiveness of so called conservatives is aimed toward a Republican more hotly than any Democrat, as seems always to be the case. As I said in the other post, I believe this nation is nearly past saving. A revolution now and then is a good thing. Without it there would be no United States that started with a riot and ended with liberty. To say this is nothing more than the French Revolution is to ignore, not illuminate, history by simplistic finger pointing. The disaster came from a disorganized group who had no true leadership that gave way to a power vacuum open to the power hungry. The idea to unshackle the hungry masses from the mistreatment of an elitist class who didn’t care was noble.

  18. Jettboy, I disagree with your assessment of the French Revolution. There was no power vacuum. It always lay in the hands of the Jacobins. However, it created an internal Civil War, and to stabilize the nation required a hero/leader and a return to nationalism. Enter Napoleon.

    I agree our nation is in danger, which is part of the point of my post. We all understand the danger that Hillary represents. However, Trump poses an equally dangerous scenario, perhaps even more so. Hillary has been stopped by a Republican Congress before. Trump crushes his opponents, and has shown to use his power and wealth to skirt legal methods, in order to get his own way.

    Both seek power to use in their own ways. Both endanger the Constitution. Both are enemies of righteousness: Hillary is pro-abortion, and Trump was until recently. Both support adulterous relationships. Violence and sex are the two main sins, and both of these have supported them. If you don’t believe Trump does, just look at his many dalliances for his sexcapades, and his rallies to see violence.

  19. What you see as the leadership of the Jacobins, I see as a disorganized group who had a good idea, but terrible approach. Besides that, your version is from the side of the elites who wrote the history. There was really no difference between the U.S. Revolution and the French Revolution until things got out of hand. That was because the power they were fighting against resided in the same space, where in the Americas they lived a world away.

    Napoleon came about precisely because there was no true leadership. If that was not the case, he wouldn’t have had an opening to exploit. I also find it hard to understand what was so bad about him compared to any other leaders during that time other than as a conqueror. He wasn’t the first before him or the worst, and yet gets all the bad press because he was ultimately the loser. The point is, I think all this Trump fear is overblown and unhealthy. At least he will have Republicans and Democrats who will fight against his more blatant bad policies, assuming there will be that many. Hillary will have the backing of almost all the Democrats and most Republicans as history proves. He at least has a chance to be blocked if all this huffing and puffing is not a bluff. Hillary will not.

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