Last week I whined at length about @$$holes who make a lot of money by disseminating cynical, raving idiocy that plays to the worst in us. I attempted to calm myself by presenting one particularly asinine and vile blogger with the first inaugural “Ruining America Award.” And I’m not even 100% sure what “inaugural” means. The universe yawned and reached for the remote.
As a counterpoint to my grumpy ruminations, I feel it’s only fair to acknowledge some great feat of excellence, an act of creation, goodness, or selflessness that represents what’s…if not best about this mess of biology and steel we call America, then at least something extraordinary enough to warrant a little recognition.
Not everyone’s going to agree, I realize, about what represents The Good. Washington did some good stuff, granted. Martin Luther King had serious chops, etc. So in light of that kind of nobility and self-sacrifice, it’s not going to be easy for me to make the case that a guy who spent five months puppetmastering the greatest fake Twitter account in the history of mankind might deserve a nod.
Granted, starting a country is a pretty tough act to follow (assuming it’s a good one–it doesn’t count if you founded Pitcairn Island or some similarly f***ed up place.) Ditto for leading an oppressed minority to freedom via nonviolent resistance.
But barring those activities–and you’ll have to admit, those kinds of job opportunities just don’t pop up all that often–I’m going to argue that political satire is a singularly good deed.
“A dirty joke is not, of course, a serious attack upon morality, but it is a sort of mental rebellion, a momentary wish that things were otherwise,” writes Orwell in an essay about the lowbrow, comedic postcards that were sold in cheap stationers’ shops at the time. “So also with all other jokes, which always centre round cowardice, laziness, dishonesty or some other quality which society cannot afford to encourage.”
As for qualities which society can’t afford to encourage, at least 110% of these can be found in abundance in pretty much every city council, state legislature, school board, and Oval Office in our great nation. Puncturing the inflated bluster, hypocrisy, and outright fabrications that infest our political spheres isn’t just enjoyable, it’s practically in the Bill of Rights; and if it isn’t, it should be.
A lot of people I know lament the loss of some kind of reverence they claim once surrounded American leaders and politicians. Maybe this actually existed. But as far as I’m concerned, fervent sanctimony is for showering upon kings, gods, and dictators. Fearfully. You want reverence? Earnest, enthusiastic expressions of patriotism? Try Moscow, 1932. Not a lot of laughs up in there. But plenty of nice, red Stalin-head banners with gold fringe. Not what I’m looking for in a country, thanks.
Me, I’ll opt for irreverence and a certain tendency to giggle inappropriately over mandatory political meetings and party-line cheerleading at the town factory. Because humor is an expression of freedom. Political freedom, creative freedom, mental freedom. If you can laugh at a thing, even a terrible and painful thing, then that thing has not entirely defeated you. And speaking of a terrible and painful thing…here’s my awkward attempt to transition to the topic of Chicago city politics, and one man’s quest to boldly satirize that circus as no one has satirized it before.
Some brilliant, wonderful fellow has thrust his pulsating political wit into the gaping void of chaos that is Twitter…and spawned magic. One day a Chicago journalist with serious punk rock leanings decided to start posting wickedly funny, profanity-ridden tweets as @MayorEmanuel, virtually telling the story of Rahm Emanuel’s campaign in real time, 140 characters at a time. The fake Rahm quickly accrued several orders of magnitude more followers than the real Rahm, and a new form of literature was born.
Wanna know where the written word is headed? Read this article in The Atlantic about the storytelling genius behind @MayorEmanuel, and you may just find out. And if you don’t think profanity can be raised to an art form, you haven’t read the comic stylings of a punk-rocking, Chicago-loving, new-media journalist channeling Rahm. Talk about innovation.
Enjoy! I smiled the whole time I was reading it. And for that, I hereby award Dan Sinker the first inaugural “If Not Actually Fixing America, Then At Least Not Fucking It Up Any Worse” Award. And really, that’s all you can ask at this point.
in·au·gu·ral * inˈôg(y)ərəl
Noun: An inaugural speech, esp. one made by an incoming US president.
Adjective: Marking the beginning of an institution, activity, or period of office.