Being Nowhere
Circus Tradition
Class Politics
Enormous Loss
Haditha Tragedy
Homeless Being
Illegal Camping Ordinance
Journalism Priviledge
Keep Us Safe
Leadership and the People

Lesser Evils
Lynching Iraq
News for Working People
Nice Cops
Palestinian Democracy
Poison Fish
Political Communication
Selective Memory
Vestigial Entrances

Circus Tradition

References to Sarasota’s strong circus tradition are curious, at least to one who has been here just under 20 years. It’s rather like saying San Francisco has a strong heterosexual tradition. Yes, but.......

One does not find a lot of fun around town. No one goes out of their way to be whimsical or capricious. Real estate people are not known for orange hair. Small cars are hard to find, even with only one passenger. To be sure, animals are not treated especially well and are expected to pay their own way or be fed to the others, but this is probably not the part of circus tradition those who mention it intend to extoll. People are heard to say “Sarasota sure is a funny town,” but they usually mean Sarasota likes it’s art early in the day and very expensive.

Once past the Ringling name on everything short of gum balls, where’s the circus? Does anyone here have a pair of chicken feet? Yet in Buffalo, NY, a city which never boasts of a circus tradition, one of its most prominent citizens had his very own custom made pair! And I have on many occasions asked retailers for the clown’s discount and never gotten anything but blank stares.

What could be a better occasion for having some fun that a proposal to locate clown simulacra around town, but the published conversation is mostly crabby. While it is important to take seriously environmental decisions that will last forever -- bridges and building arcades are recent examples -- stuff that is temporary should be allowed to go forward as experiments in living to be ragged on or appreciated during the brevity of their tenure.


Years ago, reading a book called “A Critique of Pure Tolerance” I recall longing for some, regardless of its purity. We seem to be very much on edge over who gets to control our collective identity, so much so that perspective and proportionality are lost terms. In that posture we become a people with less tolerance for statuary of uncertain merit than for the plight of the least fortunate among us.

Americans have always clawed at each other, and there have been some mighty brawls: abolition, suffrage, labor, prohibition, war, apartheid, and the current agendas of evangelism. In the clawing we avoided Hitlerism, Stalinism, Maoism and the Taliban, and we paid the price of a good number of more localized witch hunts.

But we can not treat every community debate as though what is at stake is the ultimate power to determine our collective identity. If we do that we shall never have any fun, regardless of how many clowns lay buried in our memory.














©Al Katz • Prof. of law SUNY, Buffalo, 1969-1989 (ret.)