When writers use the tired device of starting a column with “Merriam-Webster defines the word [fill in the blank] as [with definition]” in their very first sentence, it really makes me cringe to read it. So, I am going to do it in my third sentence instead and use a different, more obscure dictionary because that will make it (very slightly) less cringeworthy, right?

The American Heritage Dictionary defines the word “cringe” as “to shrink back, as in fear; cower.” Shoot, I guess there is a reason everyone uses the good ol’ Webster’s because that’s not the definition of “cringe” I am looking for, American Heritage! So let’s start over. Merriam-Webster defines cringe as “to recoil in distaste.” Ding! Ding Ding! That’s the one I am looking for! Thanks, Merr!

Because I have definitely been recoiling in distaste over a couple of things this past week.  And I thought I would share that distaste with you, so we can all recoil together!

“Who Is America?” I don’t know

I like making fun of Roy Moore as much as the next sane Alabamian. His ridiculous hat, his silly little baby gun, his wife who looks like she should be a character on “Dance Moms” and who says things somehow even more inflammatory than her husband at times, his fondness for picking up high school girls at the mall when he was a 30-something-year-old whippersnapper (and allegedly even worse) and, you know, his total disregard for the justice system and the rule of law, make him a very easy target.

And while he is not a gift to the citizens of Alabama any time he runs or (God forbid) wins a race for any office in this state, he is a national treasure for columnists, pundits and talking heads on both sides of the aisle. He gives us a punching bag we can all agree on. And for that, bless his crazy, Sassy-lovin’ heart.

But even I, someone who has frequently criticized him and made jokes at his expense, couldn’t watch Sacha Baron Cohen’s (pretty successful) attempt to humiliate Moore in his new Showtime series “Who Is America?” in which he tricks politicians and other business leaders/political activists/etc. into believing he is Gen. Erran Morad, an Israeli anti-terrorism expert who is, I suppose, making a documentary or something. I really can’t tell you because I have to turn it off because I just can’t stand to watch it. It just makes me want to save people (even ones I don’t particularly care for) from the embarrassment.

I’m sure Cohen will go down in the history books as a comedic genius, with the likes of Andy Kaufman, because of this brand of deceptive humor. I do find some of his stuff hysterical. And I get that it takes a lot of “talent” to “fool” people into buying a bit like this, but it also takes a lot money and production to make it believable. Is that talent or just good funding? Probably a bit of both.

But mostly it makes me cringe because it preys on their sense of trust in their fellow human beings and at least what used to be an American value, politeness. And even though that is the intention, I hate watching those core values get obliterated on cable television.

Granted, what Cohen has gotten people to do and say on this show is downright astonishing. And disheartening. Like, how on Earth could they be that stupid to go along with this — unknowingly or even if they started to figure out it was a joke (which I have to hope is what is happening with most of these people)? But what were they thinking? At least ol’ Roy had the sense to walk out once Cohen used an “Israeli pedophile wand” on him, unlike some of the other politicos he has duped.

But what I fear is that since Cohen seems to only be preying only on conservatives, all this is going to do is further the divide between us. I think comedy is at its greatest when it pokes fun at how ridiculous we ALL are and brings us back together.

I miss the country that was united on the hilarity and absurdity of a puffy shirt or Prince playing basketball with Charlie Murphy. Who is America? I really don’t know anymore but that is the one I love and miss.

Speaking of cringeworthy things …

Dear Gov. Kay Ivey’s handlers, please just tell her to go back to not talking to the media at all. It makes me “recoil in distaste” every time I hear her try to lob, as she would say “laaaawwwwbbbbb,” a zinger at Walt Maddox about daring to challenge her to a debate. Perhaps said zingers would be more effective if she didn’t sound like she gargles with a combination of cane syrup and Duke’s Mayonnaise before she speaks. I mean, I’m from Clarke County, I can drawl on with the best of them, but woo dawgie, hands down, Wilcox County can now officially be declared the most Southern accent of Southern accents in the state of Alabama. And that is no easy feat.

But regardless of how syrupy she sounds, it is total crap she won’t debate Maddox. And this goes for anyone who wants to represent us, whether it be on the local, state or national level. If you are too chicken to bock, bock, bock it up with your opponent on the stage, then just don’t run. Part of the democratic process is that we get to actually hear from the candidates, so they can tell us their plans and how they differ from their opponents.

Maddox, who is probably still a long shot in this state, is not a lunatic, fringe, perennial candidate. He won his party’s nomination and is a respected mayor. The citizens of Alabama deserve the chance to listen to both of them on the issues that really affect this state — Medicaid, infrastructure, prisons, rural hospitals and other health care issues, ethics reform, tariffs, education and on and on.

All she can throw out is this stupid “he needs to debate himself” line because she says he can’t make up his mind on the Supreme Court nominee (that he can’t vote on) and abortion and gun rights (neither of which will probably ever change in the state of Alabama). Enjoy the red herring, people, because that is all that nonsense is, and the taste of that really should make you cringe.