What is the role of political satire? Seems to me a way to expose the hidden agendas of people and policies that hide under misleading language, pretend they’re doing something wonderful for humanity when they’re just disguising their own greed and selfishness and narrow self-serving thinking. But what happens when they don’t bother and try to hide it?
During this last year’s Campaign of Horror, it constantly struck me that the guy was bringing out into the open the hidden hatreds and proud ignorance of his constituents. He was popular because he said straight out what he thought without any apologies for political correctness or any veneer of tolerance. Some found it refreshing and apparently enough found it refreshing enough that he’s sitting in the Oval Office trying to figure out how to do a job he knew he was completely unprepared for and unqualified for.
The thought that everything good-hearted and clear-thinking people worked so hard for— simple things like “It’s no okay to be racist. It’s not okay to treat woman as mere sexual objects. It’s not okay to disclaim something just because you choose not to believe it. It’s not okay to mock disabled people. It’s not okay to lump masses of people under one stereotype.”—was now yesterday’s news and it was open season for any Tom, Dick or Harry to disparage Meryl, Malala or Mexicans.
But now I wonder. James Baldwin predicted "the fire next time" and just when we thought it was snuffed out, it appears to still be burning. It’s time to hold powerful politician’s feet to it. For example:
1. Ivana and Betsy DeVos hosted something for young girls in school in honor of Women’s History Month. They told them to study hard and go into the sciences at the same time the Husband/Boss was cutting funds to education and scientific research and disclaiming Science as real. The fact that they felt like they had to pretend to encourage young girls means that feminists and teachers created a standard of discourse that is still true—young girls should have all opportunities available to them and education is important enough that the government should wholly fund it. So now it’s back to hide-and-seek and it’s time to call them out.
2. Similarly, Trump hosted a televised gathering celebrating Black History month and proclaimed that Frederick Douglass was doing great things. Of course, he’s shameless about his ignorance (he seemed to imply Mr. Douglass was still around). But again, the fact that the Toddler-in Chief felt compelled to praise both Douglass and Martin Luther King means that he’s publicly recognizing they’re worthy of praise, even as their lives and thought were 180 degrees in the other direction from his own.
3. Somehow I’m on some White House e-mail newsletter list and though my first impulse was to get off as fast as I could, my second thought was to notice how they talk about things. In talking about the nomination of Judge Gorsuch, they filled it with liberal-sounding ideas like “deep respect for the rule of law, integrity, professional competence, judicial demeanor, highly principled, fair and even-handed, has reverence for our country’s values” and more—in short, all things that the not-to-named guy who nominated him doesn’t have. It could be possible that that guy nominated him to balance his own dismantling of reverence for our country’s values, but let’s not be naïve here. The game is to pack the court with those committed to dismantling the country of increasing equity we have become.
My point? The fire of real values is still the standard by which people defend their actions and though it’s being used as a smokescreen, it is far better than “I hate these people and a culture of inclusiveness and people who want me to pay taxes on my billions to support things like education and health care and I’m proud of it all!” Though things like this leaked out during the campaign, the official discourse is now demanding the illusion of fairness and integrity and the rule of law. So that helps define our job. Grab their feet and hold them to the fire.