So the RNC is outraged by a satire of “Puff the Magic Dragon” pointed at the president elect and his ethnicity. Dudgeon has always been a tempting posture, from the left or right. And they ought to be quick about condemning one of their own before someone else does and they, yet again, look stupid about race.
What I want to know is how or even whether the president-elect’s staff will respond as well, or in kind. Honestly, they do not need to. From what I can tell, the song is rather harmless if poorly titled, and the president-elect only stands to look better by brushing this one off. He looks tougher if he doesn’t react to every racially insensitive gaffe that will turn up. And believe me there will be plenty.
I, on the other hand, am saddened that humor so easily trucks with bigotry. Much as I cringe at the ubiquity of vulgar language in comedy, I wince when race or gender or religion is tweaked for laughs. Just this week a comedian on one of the cable stations, a ventriloquist, did a long set with a dummy representing “Ahmed” the world’s worst terrorist. The dummy by the way is a skeleton as he was a suicide bomber. Get it.
Aside from being gross and grotesque, most of the humor depended on stereotypes of Middle Eastern Islamic fanatics. He had an accent, of course. And did a lot of yelling. He did not, to his credit, do religious or political humor, but the context was essential to the humor.
The crowd was thrilled. I was angry. Muslims are part of my life, as friends and colleagues. There are lots of funny Muslims out there, really funny ones. Like the woman who tells the joke about being stopped by the police and asked for her license, and asks if he wants her driver’s license or her pilot’s license. Political, religious, and cringe worthy in its own right. But not at her expense.
I guess that’s the key. Humor always involves some mockery. It’s powerful stuff. I suppose my hope is that we would use it for more than cheap laughs.