Irony and Karma, A Comedy Duo for the Ages


Okay, as I write this, President Trump languishes at Walter Reed Hospital battling a virus he claims was a “hoax” and would “magically disappear.” Four years ago, he mocked Hillary Clinton’s locomotion and coughing as she suffered from a short-lived bout of pneumonia. 

Ironic? Karmic? Or both?

I like to think of karma and irony as a sort of comedy duo, a married couple, Karma, the female more powerful and profound, and Irony as male, wisecracking, cynical.  They travel hand-in-hand around and around the crumbling empire of post-Modernism, she acting, he reacting, she detached, he involved.  It’s a symbiotic relationship that can help educate us about the benefits and perils of good and bad behavior, so it’s helpful to be able to distinguish one from the other, to discern their similarities and differences.  

Trump Mocking Hillary’s Pneumonia

Irony, of course, is often misunderstood, mistaken for coincidence, as it is throughout the Alanis Morrisette song “Ironic.” 

[Irony’s] like rain on your wedding day
It’s a free ride when you’ve already paid . . . 

Of course, precipitation on your wedding day isn’t ironic, that is, unless it’s a destination wedding in the McMurdo Dry Valleys of Antarctica.[1] A free ride when you’ve already paid isn’t a free ride. The song “Ironic” isn’t ironic, which stupidly makes it sort of ironic. 

Bone fide irony is all about incongruence, the discrepancy between expectation and reality.

I sometimes run across the phrase “irony is dead” when a commentator is highlighting some blatant act of ignored hypocrisy. However, the failure of people to perceive the incongruences that create irony doesn’t mean that irony is dead; it merely demonstrates that irony is dead to them.[2]

Yes, Trump’s calling a disease that smites him a hoax is somewhat ironic, only somewhat because you might not be surprised that a foolish man who flips off science ends up regretting it. However, it is ultimately ironic because, unlike rain on a wedding day, getting ill from a virus you claim is a hoax is incongruent.

What’s not ironic is that Trump’s flaunting of safety protocols, like not wearing masks and eschewing social distancing, has resulted in his infection. That’s karmic. 

Karma,  कर्म in Sanskrit,  means action; karma’s all about cause and effect, as in the cliche “what goes around comes around.”  Is mocking Hillary’s illness the reason Trump’s now fallen ill?  Is it karmic? Only in the sense that it’s indicative of his modus operandi of defying human norms of decent behavior, of embracing a hubris that distorts his perceptions of reality, of cultivating a false sense of invulnerability. Actions such as these will eventually, as the vulgar say, “come and bite you in the ass.”

Irony is surprising; karma is not.

[1] Average rainfall a year 0.00 millimeters.

[2] I remember fondly Misahn Bootay’s response Donald Trump’s tweet proclaiming “The Democrat [health] plan would obliterate Obamacare” during the 2016 midterm elections:

“Not only is irony dead,” he tweeted, “but it’s grave has been dug up and it’s been dressed in gaudy finery and paraded through the streets like the decaying corpse of a medieval pope.”

3 thoughts on “Irony and Karma, A Comedy Duo for the Ages

  1. A Biden win would be ironic because Trump’s term has been all about undoing the Obama years, and I know the upcoming election will be no different. It would also be karmic!

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