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Tuesday, January 25, 2005

Finite Jest

From a Washington Post article regarding the inaugural festivities that I am so glad I skipped out on, even if I had to go straight into the heart of a blizzard to escape them:

Though there was no official poem for the occasion, impressionist Rich Little, emceeing the Constitution Ball at the Hilton Washington, did provide a bit of inaugural doggerel.

The gist of it was: "Let's get together, let bitterness pass, I'll hug your elephant, you kiss my ass!" And the crowd went crazy.

Little said he missed and adored the late President Ronald Reagan and "I wish he was here tonight, but as a matter of fact he is," and he proceeded to impersonate Reagan, saying, "You know, somebody asked me, 'Do you think the war on poverty is over?' I said, 'Yes, the poor lost.' " The crowd went wild.

(The above came to my attention via David Corn.)

My first thought of course was "Rich Little? He's still alive? Who knew?"

My second thought was that this line of jokes was some awkward attempt at satire, possibly a subversive ridicule of an audience who don't know they are being made fun of. Though reading this Daily Kos thread about the subject led me to believe that true, and, in any case, I've long since tired of giving anyone on the other side of the aisle the benefit of any doubt.

And then, after a third thought that involved me silently lobbing obscene thoughts at Mr. Little, in between congratulating myself for leaving DC and not watching a nanosecond of fawning Inauguration coverage, I had a fourth thought.

Though conservative politicos are usually tight-lipped when it comes to their indifference to and/or their contempt for those among us less fortunate than they are, every once in a while they show their true colors. People of modest means who were somehow convinced that Bush and his cronies stood for "ordinary Americans" while the Democrats are all about elitism are in for a reality check soon. I think this in a small way was such a moment. One of my favorite such moments was documented in Farenheit 9/11:
What an impressive crowd: the haves, and the have-mores. Some people call you the elite, I call you my base.

But I think even Bush can't come close to matching opinion leader Grover Norquist's regular pronouncements.
Yes, because in addition [Democrats'] demographic base is shrinking. Each year, 2 million people who fought in the Second World War and lived through the Great Depression die. This generation has been an exeception in American history, because it has defended anti-American policies. They voted for the creation of the welfare state and obligatory military service. They are the base of the Democratic Party. And they are dying. And, at the same time, all the time more Americans have stocks. That makes them defend the interests of business, because it is their own interest. Because of that, it's impossible to bring to the fore policies of social hate, of class warfare.

Yep, they hated America so much that they saved us from the Axis of Nazi Germany, Fascist Italy, and Imperial Japan.

These sorts of sentiments can't be particularly popular in "Red America," where there are poor people aplenty, and many more just barely getting by. We're not even talking about people on welfare - we're talking about people who try to make a living on their own on a job, or two or three jobs that offer no insurance, no health coverage, no benefits of any kind. For a bunch of people who generally profess to be devout Christians, these aren't even especially Christian sentiments. Anytime any Republican of any stature says anything that reeks as much of "Let them eat cake" as Little's lame-ass comedy routine, we ought to be shouting about it from the rooftops.

Yes, in the final analysis, Rich Little isn't very important. That's never stopped the other side before; I seem to recall the GOP making a big stink about something Whoopi Goldberg said last year, though no one anointed Whoopi to any party position either. And Grover Norquist has a lot more pull in the ruling party than Whoopi does in the opposition party. (The first thing our side has to learn to do is stop bringing knives to gunfights - though that's a subject for another post.)

There may be nothing I irrationally despise more than right-wing "humor." The powerful picking on the powerless is cheap, easy, and essentially worhtless even without the bigotry that all too often goes along with it, and there's a certain laziness to the obvious (though somewhat legitimate) targets they choose, such as government bureaucrats or airheaded celebrity activists.

It takes guts to mock onself, and even more to take on persons and centers of real power. Sometimes humor is the most effective way one can attack or even simply criticize the powers that be.

Yes, those of us on the left do have a sense of humor. We're the ones who need it the most, because if we couldn't laugh we'd hardly ever stop crying.


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