David Bouchier

Commentator

David began as a print journalist in London and taught at a British university for almost twenty years. After coming to the United States in 1986 he continued to teach and to publish a regular humor column in The New York Times regional edition.  He joined WSHU as a weekly commentator in 1992, becoming host of Sunday Matinee in 1996. His latest book of essays, Peripheral Vision, was published in 2011. His other books include A Few Well Chosen Words, The Song of Suburbia, The Cats and the Water Bottles, The Accidental Immigrant and Writer at Work. He lives in Stony Brook, New York with his wife who is a professor at Stony Brook University, and two un-musical cats.

Democracy is a glorious idea. The notion of free citizens governing themselves by electing the best and brightest people among them as representatives is one of the best notions that the human race has ever produced. It’s a pity that the results are so often disappointing – especially that the chosen representatives so seldom appear to be the best and the brightest, let alone the most noble and honest citizens.

Presidential elections are emotional and sometimes hysterical events, and that’s not good. Elections are supposed to be based on thoughtful policies and sensible choices. Modern democracy was after all an invention of the Age of Reason in the 18th century. But today’s elections seem more like celebrations of unreason.

One of the more bizarre news stories of the past few weeks has been the plague of scary clowns. It seems that certain young men, who are clearly somewhat deranged, have been dressing up in clown costumes and going around scaring adults and children with creepy and threatening behavior. Real clowns are naturally outraged by this phenomenon. Clowns are meant to be fun, joyful, and above all harmless. I used to love seeing them at the circus when I was a kid, with their slapstick stunts and collapsing cars and deliciously messy cream pies.

Back in the 1960s and 1970s when we were all anticipating a nuclear war, a few exceptionally prudent or nervous people became what were called "survivalists." They headed out to some unimaginably remote part of the country – Montana seems to have been a favorite – found a suitably inaccessible location, and built houses with en suite nuclear bunkers, stocked with generators, food, board games, and videotaped episodes of The Survivors TV series.

The other day I received a surprise message from the British police, informing me that I was being fined £30 for a traffic violation. It seems that two months ago in the provincial town of Colchester I had strayed into a bus lane, and the proof was enclosed with the police letter: three photographs taken from different angles showing my rental car crossing a completely empty bus lane on a completely empty road. I can even remember the moment when this happened. I had swerved right into the bus lane to get into position for an awkward turn that I almost missed.

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