In my recent return to the fray of U.S. Political Events, I noted a particular article on Ben Carson’s recent statement that extolled the American Can-Do spirit by citing slavery as an example of immigrants excelling; despite the circumstances they were placed in. I think that the plight of African Americans can be viewed as a story of struggle and triumph over the course of centuries; yet to use slavery as an example of immigrant success is rather careless (not to mention inaccurate; there is a distinction between a person who comes to a country versus being brought a country). A rather blunt and un-polished reaction from Samuel L. Jackson summarizes my initial thoughts after reading the statement:
I took it upon myself to post the article from the Huffington Post, thinking that perhaps this statement by Carson was taken out of context. One reader had left a comment on the post by saying:
At first, I was all ‘Haha, this must be from a satire site.’ then I noticed it was HuffPo. Now, if you’ll excuse me, I have to go shout into a pillow a whole bunch.
I’ve often commented on how surreal current events have become, but based on this comment, I felt I should check out one of my favorite news satire outlets: The Onion. Reviewing some of the headlines I was struck by how satire and reality are violently colliding creating a scenario where the satire has taken a dark turn and holds a mirror up to our society. The reflection is not pretty.
At what point does satire become tragedy. Comedy and satire can be a great indicator of a free society, yet it seems to be increasingly more difficult for our American comics to laugh. As the level of political discourse continues to spiral into the dark chasm of hatred and authoritarianism, how do we laugh? How do we survive emotionally through these dark times? Stephen Colbert’s coverage of the election was, perhaps, a prescient vision of things to come as far as comedy is concerned. Comics are more than happy to poke politicians in the eye…and for the largely liberal group of comics in the entertainment industry, a particular glee is derived from giving conservatives an extra dose of ribbing. Yet, we have seen that there is little glee in our satire of Trump. In many ways it’s becoming increasingly more difficult to satire the absurd and the obscene.
Saturday Night Live has prospered under Melissa McCarthy’s send up of Sean Spicer and Alec Baldwin’s stank-faced version of Trump. Yet, the comedy feels darker. A healthy dose of reality is what makes great satire work. I think we are finding now is that the absurdity of reality has created a scenario where comedy has transitioned across the thin line separating it from tragedy.
At the end of the day, it is our activism and desire to make the world a better place that will determine if history views the Trump Administration as a comedy or a tragedy. It does nothing for us to feel melancholy over the trials and tribulations we are faced with now; but as a mental exercise consider the comparison between comedy and tragedy. In many ways it’s a matter of perspective and your own inclinations towards optimism or pessimism in your worldview.
It’s a seemingly endless litany woes that we are confronted with in our daily news feeds, yet, somehow we have to find joy in our lives; if only for our own person mental health and well-being. For myself, I’m not wholly optimistic…presently with all the events that continue to unravel before my eyes I’m of the opinion we are living out a tragedy. I take solace in my family and loved ones and seek out opportunities to distract myself from reality occasionally. Ultimately, though I must return, since reality is where both you and I live and we cannot avoid it forever.
How do you find ways to laugh in these troubled times? Do you feel we are living out a comedy or a tragedy? Like and comment below. I’d be interested to hear your perspective.