Monday, September 3, 2012

Butt of the Joke - no fun for anyone

I'm reprinting this excellent article by Davison Cheney

PLEASANT GROVE — Today on Facebook I ran into someone who apologized for her absence to the page and vowed to pick up with her viscous liberal comments just as soon as she got re-settled in.
She then threw in a Mitt Romney joke as a teaser, with a promise of more Romney-Ryan and Republican jokes to come.

'Tis the season.

This particular humorous posting was, as expected, funny as all get out — and I laughed out loud, like I do at most of her postings. In retrospect, examining her posting, it was not droll because it supported my particular political leaning — though there are plenty of those jokes around. Nor did I chortle because I related to the situation.

As I prepared to show my wife, or at least as I prepared to send it her way electronically, I took a second look. It was absurd, and I like absurd. And it wasn’t very nice.  That gave me pause.  I have always been a fan of my Facebook friends' wry comments and frothy postings. If I can’t lay claim to a high IQ like those of my friends, at least I can go on record rubbing proverbial shoulders with their pithy offerings.

I prepared to “share” it on my Facebook account and again had a queasy feeling. It was just too darn mean.

Now, I didn’t write the joke and I didn’t draw the funny cartoon it was attached to. All I did was laugh — laugh at someone being laughed at with a cartoon sword. The frightening part was that I may have laughed because someone was being laughed at.

That gave me pause from my pause. If someone says something biting or sorted and I laugh, does that make me mean-spirited as well? Have I morphed from a sweet, passive political cartoon reader into someone who doesn’t care if the humor I enjoy is at someone else’s expense?
With political conventions half over and election season in full deliberately offensive swing, now is the time for all good men to joke at the expense of another; to show their intelligence with a quick put down or a smarmy comment.

If I were at the microphone, would I take a prime-time jibe to demonstrate how clever I was if Romney himself was in the room or his mother sat in the front row?
What if President Barack Obama was shaking my hand? Would I repeat the latest Democratic joke and smirk, and invite him to be my Facebook friend?

“Sorry Mrs. Obama,“ my wife would say. “My poor husband feels wronged. He is just trying to get back at the world by spreading the pain.“

I went back and read all of my clever friend’s comments, or as many as I could in one sitting. By the end of my excursion I was tinkling the ice cubes in my glass and swaying like an unedited Dorothy Parker.
What I found was that, aside of a few pretty puppy photos, base, ignoble political commentary bleeds from my inbox. Rare is the post that invites me to action, but rather to have a seat, sit back and laugh at someone else.
Vicious biting remarks are the fashion equivalent of the little black dress

Both political conventions will be full of why “the other guy can't lead,” and “aren’t they stupid?” And while they are at the podiums, we will be busy at home posting our own reasons for thinking liberals are fools and conservatives are naive —or the other way ‘round.

The issue is not who we are putting down, but that we feel someone has to be in the one under position, and we are determined not to be the one on bottom.
This election season I vow to respond to human decency and kindness. I will not let negative sound bites dictate how I vote, think or act.

I will firmly promote civility to those with religious or political leanings different than my own.

I will look for consideration in an e-world full of funny, smart, angry people sending each other civilized, cantankerous blurbs that aren’t, in the long run, very funny at all.

1 comment:

  1. The writer of this article makes several very important points, but he left out one that I think is of great importance to EVERYONE in America.

    The greatest damage that the culture of ridiculing politicians inflicts upon us all is that it convinces many very good people NEVER to run for public office . . . because they know that they and their families will be subject to all manner of ridicule and character assassination attacks from their opponents. When all the good people are discouraged from running for public office, that leaves those offices open to those who are running for office for the wrong reasons. And, when those are the only kind of people on the ballot, because they are the only ones who will run for office, EVERYONE loses.

    Yes, American politics is an ugly field to get into, but some good people are willing to risk their fortunes and reputations for the opportunity to do some actual good in the world. The least the rest of us can do is NOT to pass along or participate in the kind of ridiculing attacks on them and their families that are rampant today.

    I'm not saying that we shouldn't debate issues and examine qualifications of the candidates; I am saying that we should do so respectfully and politely, especially when we disagree with someone else's opinion.


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