No, this is not a defense of Sarah Palin. Anything but. You’ll find me defending her when pigs fly over frozen lakes in hell.
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Rather it is a warning. Our present treatment of Sarah Palin, which has been all but universally humorous, is wrong and is, itself, therefore an American nightmare. While this humor and satire may all be necessary and cathartic, our collective national reaction to her cannot end there. We need to move beyond poking fun at, and get serious about, the Quixotic Queen of the Klondike. We fail to do so at our own peril.
Humor, properly understood and applied, is a marvelous thing. It’s a great way to ease tension and it enables us to see things we might have difficulty seeing or accepting otherwise. It is in this latter sense that Norman Lear used humor in “All in the Family” and Molly Ivins used humor, like a spoonful of sugar, to help the medicine go down. It’s the basis of all satire.
Like everyone else with more than one functioning brain cell between their ears, I’ve enjoyed all the humor, satire, and fun that’s been heaped on this hapless humanoid. My sides ache from laughter at what people like Tina Fey, John Stewart, Mike Luckovich and others have done and said about her. There’s the sheer brilliance of the book Going Rouge: An American Nightmare, edited by Richard Kim and Betsy Reed. (And my funny bone is brought to its knees when I wonder about what fun Molly Ivins would’ve had with her. Wow!)
Like everything else, though, humor and satire, poking fun and laughing at, have their place. Used as an end in themselves they can be very detrimental. They can blind us to the very danger of what we satirize and laugh at, hiding from us the danger that the subject of our ridicule represents and of our obligation for dealing with it responsibly.
And I think this is where the humor directed at Ms. Palin has outlived it’s usefulness. At first, it helped us see her as she is and help us realize who she is-a national nightmare. Now, I’m afraid we’re using humor to laugh her off, to deny the existence of this very real and viable threat to our body politic. It’s time to go beyond the humor and satire to the next stage of dealing with her.
As Paul Krugman, in a recent column (Paranoia Runs Deep), suggests, “The takeover of the Republican Party by the irrational right is no laughing matter. Something unprecedented is happening here – and it’s very bad for America.”
Precisely. These wing nuts (as those of us with better sense refer to members of the irrational right) are moving out from under rocks, backwoods bars, and trailer porches to mainstream politics. Like a cancer, they are spreading their fears and ignorance throughout our country. And, like the class clowns they are, they’re thriving on the attention our laughter is giving them.
It’s time for chemotherapy and surgery, my friends. It’s time to excise these cancers (Palin, Beck, Coulter, Hannity, Limbaugh, O’Reilly, Lewis, Kersten) from our national discussion, sideline them, keeping them from coalescing the irrational right into a majority force. That they’re creating such a collection of wing nuts cannot be denied. They’ve already taken over the GOP and their views are being legitimized by the mere fact they’re constantly in the news. Look at how the mainstream media focused on their opinions and behavior in its coverage of the health care reform town hall meetings last August.
It’s time to stop laughing at these folks and time to sound the alarm. Like Paul Revere, we’ve got to see that the wing nuts are coming. (Hell, they’re here already here.) It is time to stop them dead in their tracks. Turn off the spotlight; they’re not entertainers or authentic class clowns but political pollutants. No more poking fun at these folks, just an honest analysis of who they really are: paranoid, fear-laden, uneducated, sadistic people.
We no longer have the luxury of allowing humor to mask who these people are and enable us to deny our obligation of dealing with them responsibly. After eight years of a class clown-like presidency, we can’t afford any more of it. Failure to do so puts the nation at extreme peril.
It’s what Molly would’ve done.