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Nicaragua taught me to laugh at Donald Trump

Donald Trump stopped being funny a long time ago. Maybe he never was. But I still laugh at him anyway.
Tim Rogers, Fusion's senior editor for Latin America, was born a gringo to well-meaning parents, but would rather have been Nicaraguan.
Güegüense mask. Crédito: Tin Rogers/Fusion

Laughter is therapeutic. It's a way of clinging to sanity in crazy times. Laughter reminds us Trump's presidency is a farce—even if the consequences are harmful and real. Laughter tells us none of this is normal, and shouldn't be treated as such.

Most importantly, laughter is subversive. Angry clowns hate it when people laugh at them.

I learned the power of laughing at authority years ago when I lived in Nicaragua. Nicaraguans have a rich tradition of mocking bad governments; they've had centuries of practice.

Nicaragua's first folkloric masterpiece, a 16th century satirical drama known as "El Güegüense," was performed to ridicule the country's Spanish colonial rulers at the time. El Güegüense is considered one of the oldest indigenous theatrical works in the hemisphere, and was proclaimed by UNESCO as a " Masterpiece of the Oral and Intangible Heritage of Humanity."

Nicaraguans are so good at mocking bad government, they've literally turned it into an internationally celebrated art form.

And they haven't lost their punch over the years. Nicaraguan political cartoonists are some of the best in the business. They taught me that despots don't have a sense of humor. Authoritarians crave legitimacy. They hate to be ridiculed. And the more bumbling they are, the deeper their desire is to be taken seriously.

In a time of "fake news," laughter reminds us where the truth lies. It's the child's voice from the back of the parade crowd—the one that tells the emperor he's naked.

"Humor is is one of the most versatile ways to explain, analyze, and regulate the life that is imposed upon us, and those who impose it," award-winning Nicaraguan cartoonist Pedro X Molina told me. He says laughing at authoritarian presidents "knocks them off their pedestals and brings them down to our level, where they belong. It puts their contradictions and stupidities on display, and in the process helps us purge our own demons, like fear and resignation, and take a breath so we can keep working for change."

Laughter alone won't fix everything, but it makes an unbearable situation more bearable.

In that spirit, we at Fusion decided to have some holiday fun by reimagining several classic Christmas tales through the warped lens of Trump's America. The result is our first full-length animated special, "Donald J. Trump's Dreaming of the Whitest Christmas."

For me, writing this show was channeling my inner Nicaraguan—the voice that's always in my heart. It's no Güegüense, but it's

( This story was first published in Splinter.)