It's Okay to Laugh
On September 29, 2001, Rudi Giuliani was the guest on the first Saturday Night Live since 9/11. The idea of laughing again in this country was not a given. It was a risk. Lorne Michael handled the risk by directly asking Rudi Giuliani, "Is it okay to laugh again?" The ice was broken when Giuliani replied, "why start now?"
In November, 2008, many people in this country questioned whether it was okay to vote against a black candidate. They asked themselves that question when voting in the primary against the far more qualified and experienced Hilary Clinton. Then, they did so again when Obama, with no track record whatsoever, ran against a far more qualified McCain.
During the four years of his presidency, many people asked themselves whether it was okay to laugh at the President's obvious gaffes. These included thinking there were 57 states, his handing an iPod to the Queen of England as if this were some exotic device unavailable in such a backward country as Great Britain (at least he didn't give her food stamps). There was his insult to Special Olympics participants, his insult to Western Pennsylvania people who happen to believe in a biblical religion. The list goes on and on. Most of the media did not feel it was appropriate to point out these recurring errors. Instead, the media focused on Biden's gaffes. Certainly, there were plenty to focus on. But Biden really didn't commit that many more gaffes than Obama. The media simply did not feel it was okay to laugh at or even criticize the first Black American President, any more than they felt his background, associations or philosophy was fair game.
With this week's Newsweek cover, we may be entering a new era. The media may finally have had enough. They may finally have realized their emperor has no clothes. Finally, it appears the media is getting the idea -- fueled in all likelihood by his campaign, the most vicious presidential campaign in history -- that it is okay to laugh, it is okay to criticize Barack Obama.
The media cannot wake up and realize that in four years he has left us with unemployment higher than when he took office. He left us with the highest rate of debt growth in history. He has left us with rising gas prices while the Keystone Pipeline (which, coincidentally, would provide tens of thousands, if not hundreds of thousands of jobs, considering the service industries) flounders, while offshore drilling remains stalled, and while money for new sources of energy goes to campaign contributors like Solyndra rather than companies that can provide those sources of badly needed energy. He has left us with a declining national educational system. He has left us with declining industry and a faltering economic system. He has left us with growing social service expense due principally to his failure to put people to work. He has left us with an embarrassingly effete military system at which even Hugo Chavez laughs. Iran is not afraid of our military. China is poised to become the new military power, all because of the vacuum created by Barack Obama.
Newsweek is the harbinger of the message. It is okay to laugh. It is okay to criticize this President. It is now socially acceptable -- as it always should have been -- to criticize the first Black American President, not because he's Black, but because he's the President. It is not only socially acceptable, it is essential if our democracy is to continue to thrive.