Sun 31 Oct 2010
Yes, sanity through inanity, and certainly not with a talking (but brainless) head like Hannity. Yesterday comedians Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert brought a few hours of utter sanity almost to the steps of Congress in their Rally to Restore Sanity. Fear and hate, the fuel of electoral robo-calling, were ridiculed. If, as Glenn Beck not long before sermonized, people in America have turned their back on God, perhaps they should back off a bit and act more like the Jesus of the beatitudes than Joshua at the battle of Jericho. All it takes to get back on track is for everyone to tone down the rhetoric and hear the laughter. For one sunny afternoon in our nation’s capital God finally had a reason to laugh, given the mess we humans have been making of things and each other. At least this time the stage featured two jesters who know they are jesters rather than Fox News’ gift to incivility. No one was compared to a Nazi, nor a Communist. As Stewart noted in an eloquent speech at the end of the show:
“This was not a rally to ridicule people of faith, or people of activism, or to look down our noses at the heartland, or passionate argument, or to suggest that times are not difficult and we have nothing to fear.”
It was, contrary to those steeped in Tea Party rhetoric, a clarion call for the values that have become antithetical to our political system: being calm, civil and accepting of differences. Stewart has not only read Rousseau’s “social contract,” but reminds us through humor of the central importance of tolerance for democracy to work. If the world was watching yesterday, they finally had something to smile about: I do not only mean the jokes but an American proud of his country for the right reasons.
One of the right reasons is the beauty of a Jewish comedian defending the right of Muslims to be American too. The skit in which Colbert says how afraid he is of Muslims ends with Kareem Abdul Jabbar, one of the greatest basketball players ever, getting a high five. If Muhammad Ali could still dance like a butterfly, we could have felt a nostalgic sting as well. The earlier performance by Yusuf Islam, once known as Cat Stevens, was another reminder that Muslims do practice peace and should not be summarily news storied into terrorist cells. As I have noted before on this blog, Stewart has criticized the blatant Islamophobia of anti-mosque reporting several times on his The Daily Show.
The targets of Stewart’s humor still do not get it. Take the Fox News headline that “Stewart’s Rally for ‘Sanity’ Draws Insane Crowd.” It would be funny, except that this is actually what one of the skits early on in the show predicted. The only thing worse than bad and biased reporting, is bad, biased and incredibly dumb reporting. Rupert Murdoch knows that this makes money; which is why he is sly as a fox and ethical as an animal that carries a very foul order when disturbed. Other news outlets did not show off their own inanity (at least not to the same extent).
I suspect that by Tuesday evening the laughter will stop. We will probably wake up Wednesday morning and realize that American democracy has yet again elected representatives with less than half of eligible voters actually bothering to vote and who will have effectively bought their way into office with millions upon millions of dollars of negative advertising. The rest of the world is watching, but what they see is not very funny. When the votes are counted (well at least the ones that don’t get thrown out for one reason or another) the great American Empire will once again have no clothes. Even a child should see that.
Daniel Martin Varisco
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