Finding the right time for ridicule

Jeremy Egerer
I can still remember, sometime back in my hipster days a couple of years ago, near the dawn of my own conservatism, entering a bar which used to be my favorite and having something tweak my brain in the strangest way.  There I was, with my long hair, a beard, pants tighter than my own girlfriend's, and a bright blue members only jacket, entering the well-known hipster bar (at the time, anyway) known as The Cha-Cha Lounge and seeing a sign which read something along the lines of "We will not allow any racism, sexism, or bigotry, so stay out if you like these."  Like I said, not an exact quote, but the sign had been there for years, and it's probably still there.

The thing that struck me so powerfully about the sign wasn't that they were specifically prohibiting certain kinds of offensive judgments, however, but the fact that this bar--this bastion of sleazy, Leftist, Seattle hipsterism--was prohibiting racial and cultural judgment, even though it was widely known to house some of the most judgmental Seattleites the city could afford.  I'd find out just how judgmental they were when I returned after getting a cheap "civilian" haircut and some mainstream American Eagle jeans, and suddenly I could hear people whom I didn't know telling others, right in front of me, how they'd just been to some terrible "bro" bar filled with guys like me.  So thanks for fighting racism, guys.  Your love will change the world.

But aside from that bar, I still see this hypocritical attitude practically everywhere, adopted by both ends of the political spectrum.  As if racism and cultural preference are the most horrible things in the world, but it's completely fine to make fun of Barack Obama for not being able to throw a ball right.  Or as though a middle-aged farmer woman can acceptably be called a "mahogany songstress" for singing a Tea-Party anthem.  Or as if we really need to hear jokes about how Dubya stumbles through his words.  Or we really need to pick on a protester for being fat.  Yes -- people aren't perfect.  People aren't always good looking, or coherent, or great at throwing baseballs.  They're people.  And picking on people for little things like this, when the reason for your anger is political, is bullying, it's dumb, it's wrong, and it needs to go.  And if we're willing to pick on people for being people (not to be confused with "people being immoral"), then we definitely need to shut up about fighting racism or the "horrors" of ubiquitously expressed cultural preference.

There is a time for jokes and criticism, however, and that time is when a political candidate/authority is acting inconsistently, illogically, immorally, or with poor judgment.  I don't even see anything wrong with picking on a person for a ridiculously backward cultural trait, like Obama taking down his Christmas ornaments and putting ones up with Chairman Mao's face on them.  Or about how Barney Frank lived in a gay whorehouse.  Or how people will tell you that Jesus said not to judge, when the reason they're telling you is because they're judging your judgment.  Or how Al Sharpton keeps taking the wrong side of rape cases, and how many blacks in America keep believing him.  These kinds of behaviors are so wrong and so fundamentally unsound that they're worth some good public mockery.

But when we cross the line into making fun of personal traits, turning our policy anger into personal insult, what we do is insult groups of people for something we don't need to insult about, and turn people who hate bullying (or have been bullied) against our cause.  There are people on our own team who are fat, who can't speak well, and who can't throw baseballs worth anything, and I would be willing to bet that we wouldn't just insult them for being who they are, especially in person, so let's drop the bullying and get back to real conversation.  If you truly believe you're on the good-guys' team--whichever side you're on--then you should be happy with an ideological battle instead of a nitpicking bully's tactics.  After all, the good guys deserve to win because they're right, not because they're good at putting up a nasty fight.

Jeremy Egerer is a conservative convert from radical liberalism, and is the editor of Seattle's www.americanclarity.com
I can still remember, sometime back in my hipster days a couple of years ago, near the dawn of my own conservatism, entering a bar which used to be my favorite and having something tweak my brain in the strangest way.  There I was, with my long hair, a beard, pants tighter than my own girlfriend's, and a bright blue members only jacket, entering the well-known hipster bar (at the time, anyway) known as The Cha-Cha Lounge and seeing a sign which read something along the lines of "We will not allow any racism, sexism, or bigotry, so stay out if you like these."  Like I said, not an exact quote, but the sign had been there for years, and it's probably still there.

The thing that struck me so powerfully about the sign wasn't that they were specifically prohibiting certain kinds of offensive judgments, however, but the fact that this bar--this bastion of sleazy, Leftist, Seattle hipsterism--was prohibiting racial and cultural judgment, even though it was widely known to house some of the most judgmental Seattleites the city could afford.  I'd find out just how judgmental they were when I returned after getting a cheap "civilian" haircut and some mainstream American Eagle jeans, and suddenly I could hear people whom I didn't know telling others, right in front of me, how they'd just been to some terrible "bro" bar filled with guys like me.  So thanks for fighting racism, guys.  Your love will change the world.

But aside from that bar, I still see this hypocritical attitude practically everywhere, adopted by both ends of the political spectrum.  As if racism and cultural preference are the most horrible things in the world, but it's completely fine to make fun of Barack Obama for not being able to throw a ball right.  Or as though a middle-aged farmer woman can acceptably be called a "mahogany songstress" for singing a Tea-Party anthem.  Or as if we really need to hear jokes about how Dubya stumbles through his words.  Or we really need to pick on a protester for being fat.  Yes -- people aren't perfect.  People aren't always good looking, or coherent, or great at throwing baseballs.  They're people.  And picking on people for little things like this, when the reason for your anger is political, is bullying, it's dumb, it's wrong, and it needs to go.  And if we're willing to pick on people for being people (not to be confused with "people being immoral"), then we definitely need to shut up about fighting racism or the "horrors" of ubiquitously expressed cultural preference.

There is a time for jokes and criticism, however, and that time is when a political candidate/authority is acting inconsistently, illogically, immorally, or with poor judgment.  I don't even see anything wrong with picking on a person for a ridiculously backward cultural trait, like Obama taking down his Christmas ornaments and putting ones up with Chairman Mao's face on them.  Or about how Barney Frank lived in a gay whorehouse.  Or how people will tell you that Jesus said not to judge, when the reason they're telling you is because they're judging your judgment.  Or how Al Sharpton keeps taking the wrong side of rape cases, and how many blacks in America keep believing him.  These kinds of behaviors are so wrong and so fundamentally unsound that they're worth some good public mockery.

But when we cross the line into making fun of personal traits, turning our policy anger into personal insult, what we do is insult groups of people for something we don't need to insult about, and turn people who hate bullying (or have been bullied) against our cause.  There are people on our own team who are fat, who can't speak well, and who can't throw baseballs worth anything, and I would be willing to bet that we wouldn't just insult them for being who they are, especially in person, so let's drop the bullying and get back to real conversation.  If you truly believe you're on the good-guys' team--whichever side you're on--then you should be happy with an ideological battle instead of a nitpicking bully's tactics.  After all, the good guys deserve to win because they're right, not because they're good at putting up a nasty fight.

Jeremy Egerer is a conservative convert from radical liberalism, and is the editor of Seattle's www.americanclarity.com