Wednesday, October 03, 2007

Just joking.

Every now and again, I like to go on a comic rant about a person or situation, in which I speak in a high faluting tone, using five dollar words where a nickel is overspending, and making it sound like the loudest and most emphatic condemnation I can... and then end with something like "oh, yeah, and you're ugly, and your mother dresses you funny."

A meaningless cheap shot to show that it's all a rant that doesn't really mean anything... something that demonstrates that the tone I've used is clearly not justified. I don't mean that what I said was entirely unjustified; there might be some valid criticism mixed in. But it does mean that you shouldn't take what I say entirely seriously.

That sometimes works even when it's not intentional. If a person shows outrage over something really stupid, you should probably ask yourself if you should take their other ideas with a huge grain of salt - perhaps one as large as a boulder.

So, if you see people trying to make a big deal about Hilary Clinton's laugh - I kid you not, there are people doing so! - or over John Edwards spending big bucks to look good - any professional who depends on image does this, but if he Democratic, the Republicans will rip on him! - or over the Folsom Street Fair having a poster patterned after Leonardo da Vinci's "The Last Supper" painting - again, I kid you not, this is an "assault on Christianity" they say! - then maybe you should consider whether or not these people can be taken seriously about anything.

See, I'll make a joke about a long, loud rant. I'll signal to people, just to make sure they don't take the rant too seriously, so they know there's a joke involved. You know it's a joke, and it's clear that I know it's a joke.

What about those who are trying to make it a rant that should be a joke (like Hillary's laugh, Edwards' hair, or the Folsom Street Fair poster)? Are they lying, pretending to be outraged when they aren't, hoping to stir up hatred and/or divisiveness? Or are they actually hateful or divisive? In either case, whether they are, or are trying to appear, ready to rip the United States apart over stupid crap, folks should start to recgnize that they can't be trusted.

See, this is the scariest thing that's happened over the past too-damn-many years. There was a time when, in the end, what mattered most was that we were Americans. Oh, we had our angry spats over things, some important, some less than important, but in the end, unless we were dealing with a real enemy, not a mere political opponent, we might as well have ended up with "oh, yeah, and you're ugly and your mother dresses you funny."

A way of saying "yeah, we're ripping you up, we have to win this fight... but we both know that it's about winning the point, not trashing the person who loses it... we're talking nasty, but we know it's part of the game."

And it's changed. During the buildup to the Iraq war, at least one columnist asked if we shouldn't be videotaping anti-war protestors to prosecute them for treason. Liberal folks are called friends of terrorists, by people speaking with straight faces. It's not a matter of saying "we disagree, and for the moment, we'll go into nasty-speak to win the point, but everyone knows that it's part of the game." It's become a matter of trying to attack the opposition, to weaken it, not to win a point, but to gain greater power, by trashing their opposition... by spreading hatred, suspicion, and divisiveness.

They still make their nasty jokes... but they're no longer laughing, they're taking themselves seriously. And that's when it stops being funny.

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