Monday, May 11, 2009

When is humor humorless? - not only humorless, but atrocious and vicious. When it is humor delivered by comedian Wanda Sykes as it was Saturday night at the annual White House Correspondents Dinner. And what should have been labelled hate speech by any fair minded American was laughed at by Barach Obama and a room full of political acolytes, members of the fourth estate who are similarly acolytic most of the time and other invited guests.
The target of Sykes vitriolic words was conservative talk show host Rush Limbaugh. In a voice dripping with sarcasism, Sykes accused Limbaugh of wanting Obama to fail. In an interview with Sean Hannity, which I heard with my very own ears, Limbaugh called for Obama's policies to fail, not Obama himself or America. Sykes picked up on a much misrepresented statement by Limbaugh, obviously without listening to the interview. Even comedians should tell the truth. There is never a venue for a lie.
She also referenced Limbaugh's very public battle with prescription pain killers, which is a slam of every person who struggles to overcome addiction. And there are 18,000,000 such persons in this country alone. My father was an alcoholic. If he did battle addiction, sadly, he never won. But such a reference by Sykes brought a hearty laugh from the President and his acolytic audience.
Then Sykes really went over the top comparing Limbaugh to Osama Bin Laden and added, she hoped Limbaugh would suffer kidney failure. Since kidney failure is common for those who suffer addition and also a very torturous death, that statement was way, way beyond the pale. But apparently not beyond the pale of the President and the audience who hooted with laughter.
God help us if this is what passes for humor today. Political discourse is acrid enough in this country without the leader of this nation, and the free world, finding something to laugh about in such hate speech. Mr. Obama's leadership would have been better served by greeting Sykes' vitriol with a stoic expression. He would have set a great example for all of us. And certainly for the vapid news media members who hosted this annual affair. Unfortunately, he did not.
How sad for us all that we allow ourselves to sink to such a level. Sykes and her ilk demean not only Rush Limbaugh, but all of us who value civility and deplore hate speech. To his credit, Limbaugh made no response to the verbal outrage against him. While I may sometimes disagree with Mr. Limbaugh, I will always salute his silence as an example we can all follow when faced with such insults.
In his 70-odd years in show business Bob Hope was far funnier than Sykes will ever hope to be, and never, not once, did Hope use blue humor, curse words or demeaning taunts to buttress his humor. He was funny enough without such contemptible verbal props.

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