Send in the Clowns.

Send in the clowns!

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The spirit of the mythic Trickster is alive and well in Knoxville, Tennessee, where clowns are using contrariness and laughter to combat racism. lol 

In an article on the Asheville Indymedia website (via Digsby), Chris Irwin tells a hilarious story of a Nazi/KKK hate rally foiled by theAnti-Racist Action group’s clown brigade. As Irwin describes the event:

“White Power!” the Nazi’s shouted. “White flour?” the clowns yelled back, running in circles throwing flour in the air and raising separate letters which spelt “White Flour.”

“White Power!” the Nazi’s angrily shouted once more. “White flowers?” the clowns cheered as they threw white flowers in the air and danced about merrily.

“White Power!” the Nazi’s tried once again in a doomed and somewhat funny attempt to clarify their message. “Ohhhhhh!” the clowns yelled, “tight shower!” and held a solar shower in the air. They all tried to crowd under to get clean as per the Klan’s directions.

At this point several of the Nazi and Klan members began clutching their hearts as if they were about to have heart attacks….One last time they screamed “White Power!”

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The clown women thought they finally understood what the Klan was trying to say. “Ohhhhh,” the women clowns said. “Now we understand…WIFE POWER!” They lifted the letters up in the air, grabbed the nearest male clowns and lifted them in their arms and ran about merrily chanting “WIFE POWER! WIFE POWER! WIFE POWER!”

(Read the full text of Irwin’s wonderful story here.)

Richard_gormanFools and clowns have played an important role in many ancient traditions around the world. The sacred clowns of the Hopi and other Native American tribes, for example, disrupt and mock solemn ceremonies and chastise tribal wrong–doers by mimicking transgressive behavior. They have license to be rude, crude, lewd, and utterly outrageous — for in their contrary way they are teachers and healers, using laughter as their medicine. Hinduism and Zen Buddhismhave a long tradition of divine craziness, practiced by mad ascetics who lead contrary lives as acts of religious devotion. Ritual clowning appears in the Christian world in Carnaval celebrationsand the Feast of Fools, in which all the usual social rules are suspended or turned up–side–down.

For more about Tricksters and clowns around the world, see the Winter 2007 issue of Endicott’s Journal of Mythic Arts, which was devoted to the subject. And for more on clowns as political activists, visit the Rebel Clown Army website.

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The Hopi clown kachina, above left, is by Richard Gorman. The Pueblo clown sculptures, above, are by Roxanne Swentzell

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