Stephen Colbert’s testimony before the Congressional Committee on Immigration was a welcome relief from the recent pomposity and bad circumstances exhibited in that building. It’s heartening to see that our democracy is secure enough to allow its fools to frolic and our legislature can endure a bit of well-intended ridicule. We need more of it. Yet we hear some congressional voices muttering that it was ‘out of line’ to have a comedian mock the hypocrisy of our hypocritical immigration policies right in their own living room. But that’s Colbert’s schtick, to mock even mockery.
Political satire is certainly older than our nation. The word satire itself comes from the Greek ‘satyr’, the mythical beasts who taunted and made fun of the gods. In ancient Persia it is said that poets could kill by hurling satires instead of spears. Eskimos had duels of satiric phrases, sort of like the dozens, where the losers were exiled or even killed. In Elizabethan England satiric insults were banned by law. Satire can be a powerful thing of which even kings must beware. Laughter has been called the Thorn of Crowns.
At least one of our Founding Fathers was a black-belt satirist. Benjamin Franklin used many pen names besides Poor Richard and made relentless fun of everything from witchcraft to the persecution thereof. He wrote satires about race and religion and immigration. He ridiculed the English Empire for decades before our Declaration of Independence with such satires as Rules By Which A Great Empire May Be Reduced To A Small One which humorously enumerated many of the same complaints mentioned in the Declaration. Humor as a political tool is part of our national tradition.
So, The Poet’s Eye sees it as a sign of good health that we occasionally allow the clowns into the court. In fact it is my modest proposal that we amend the Constitution to create a special honorary State in our Union complete with two Senators and at least one Representative, call it the State of Hilarity or some such and let it represent every American with a sense of humor.
You may say that this is too broad a constituency, or too narrow. Every American thinks that his sense of humor is tops, it’s one of our National delusions. We imagine ourselves free and brave and tall with a good sense of humor, just like in your eHarmony profile. There will be many factions of the Funny Bone Party from the Slap-Sticks on the right to the Subtly Sardonics on the left and who is to say in the end if a pun is funnier than a man-walks-into-a-bar joke? We all have our peculiar definitions of humor. It can only be asserted that three extra comedic votes would do interesting things for the balance of power if not the decorum in our legislature. We know it can be done; the Constitution didn’t spontaneously combust when Al Franken was elected Senator.
This begs the question of how we as voters can tell the difference between the comedians and the rest of the pigs in the political poke? The answer is of course that there is no difference. Another fine American satirist, Will Rogers, who was so beloved that he would have had no trouble being elected Senator of any number of states, remarked about Congress, “Every time they make a joke, it gets to be a law” and then adds, “And every time they make a law, it’s a joke!”
I’m starting to warm up to this idea. Three jokers in the legislative deck would add some excitement to the hum-drum game of stud that we see in Congress these days. I could see Nancy Pelosi and Joan Rivers sponsoring the same bills. Bill Mahr would be electable. The comedy caucus would look like the cast of SNL. I’ll bet John Boehner does a spot-on impression of Alec Baldwin portraying a pompous politician. Of course Dennis Kucinich is physically build for comedy.
The Poet’s Eye sees our Congress in much the same light as Will Rogers. He said, “It’s kinda like watchin’ a guy with a ukulele. You never know if he can actually play the thing or if he’s just monkeying with it.” Our Legislature, if you judge by stature or deed, is little more than a circus provided for the mob by the oligarchs, so why not make it the show it deserves to be? Comedians, clowns, bring on the dancing girls and break out the cream pies. We want more indoor fireworks, special effects and stage illusions. We want to see David Copperfield make the deficit vanish before our very eyes. This is Show Biz, after all.
The Poet’s Eye invites you to join the Mad Dog Absurdist Party.
Laugh Out for America!
Don’t you love farce?
My fault I fear.
I thought that you’d want what I want.
Sorry, my dear.
But where are the clowns?
Quick, send in the clowns.
Don’t bother, they’re here.