Satire, Black Comedy, and Terrorism

Yellowstone National Park, February, 2007.

Yellowstone National Park, February, 2007.

The past week’s abhorrent shootings in Paris are said to be the beginning of a new age of terrorism that some say cannot be stopped. Cities like London, New York, and Los Angeles are prime targets for insane fundamentalist activity, and there are new terror alerts posted everywhere. We’re told to be vigilant and be aware of everything that is going on around us.  On my last trip on Amtrak, there were signs all over place saying, “If You See Something, Say Something,” encouraging travelers like myself to speak up about any unsettling activity they notice as we move from place to place.

I do not support or defend those who killed the French cartoonists and the hostages and I strongly believe in freedom of speech. But I’m forced to wonder that if we stopped lambasting other people’s religions, spirituality, and those who are different from us, things might change just a little bit.

I believe that much of today’s humor, like the “jokes” I heard at the Golden Globe’s on Sunday night, is shamefully distasteful. Was it really necessary to roast Bill Cosby, for his detestable behavior toward women on a program that is supposed to be celebrating creativity and brilliance? Cosby is already being punished for his acts of uninvited sexual advances, even though it hasn’t yet been proven in a court of law.

I personally do not find humor based on anger to be funny. It is hurtful.

In satire or black humor, people aren’t maimed or gunned down in hate crimes like those in Paris, but they can be hurt none-the-less. Consider the number of gay men and women, young and old, who have committed suicide because others have had “fun” calling them monsters of one sort or another.

Our country, “The Land of The Free and home of the brave,” has always had terrorists among us. There are hate crimes committed every day here, and those who commit them are not usually Muslims.

Remember the Civil Rights Movement, and the number of innocent African Americans who suffered at the hands of “upstanding, Christian” white people?

I recently spent a few days with a person who is not an American citizen. His satirical rants about “you Americans,” set my generally positive attitude towards everyone on edge. By the end of his visit I was more than a bit offended.

There are “Ugly Americans” among us, as William J. Lederer and Eugene Burdick, coined them in their book by that same title in 1958. We are just as hateful as anybody else and often behave miserably when we visit other countries. But we’re also responsible for doing great things around the world for people who are different from us.

Other countries also do great things for the world. Sometimes their people make the headlines like, Pakistani, Malala Yousafzai, the youngest Nobel Prize laureate ever, who works on behalf of girls and women and their right to be educated. Others humbly struggle to make things right, without recognition. But those who get the most recognition, are the haters and fundamentalists who shoot and blow innocent people up.

The gathering of people and officials from all over the world, who rallied in Paris on Sunday, heartened me. What a wonderful way of bringing people of all ethnicities together in support of free speech and peace. I am ashamed, however, that our administration chose not to send a higher official to participate with the other world leaders who felt it was their duty to be there. It has been reported that Attorney General, Eric Holder, was in Paris at the time, but did not to attend.

Some of us complain about needing to be politically correct all of the time. But I believe that doing so is an act of kindness, and that we’d go a long way in diminishing some the hatred we’re witnessing in our world today, if we just a bit more careful.

If we can be kind and helpful to those around us, rather than put them down because they believe in a different God than we do, maybe we can make a difference in what happens in our world. It probably won’t stop terrorists from blowing up innocent people, but it’s a step in the right direction. By doing so, we can mend the hearts of many and take the first step in bringing peace and unity to all of the people we share our beautiful planet with.