Hello again, fair readers. At the outset, I can promise this will be, hopefully, one of the most entertaining articles of mine you’ve ever read. If not, oh well, I did try.What I want to talk about is the “This Land” cartoon that has been spreading itself throughout the nation for the past few months. If you’ve been living under a rock and haven’t seen this yet, feel free to go to http://www.jibjab.com and watch. I remember I first saw this cartoon via a link in someone’s profile under the title, “I wish all campaign commercials were like this.” I thought it was amusing and thought nothing of it. Later, what struck me was the fact that this cartoon was not only highly amusing, but quite accurate. I think what this cartoon showed me was that humor, at its very best, cuts through rhetorical red tape and lets us get to the truth.Though an outside observer might find the idea that this November we’re choosing between a “liberal wiener” and a “right wing nut job” distasteful, this cartoon does cast our election as a stark choice. Our elections should be such a choice and it is sad that neither of our candidates have done that for us. What themes emerge through this cartoon? Bush is running on the fact that “Yes, it’s true I do kick ass,” that he’s a “great crusader” and offers “tax breaks.” Meanwhile, he attacks John Kerry for being a “liberal wiener,” for “having more waffles than a house of pancakes,” and for being a “UN pussy.” Now, silly as it seems, I can’t think of a more clear-cut example of what President Bush and his administration think of themselves or of John Kerry. Even recently, Dick Cheney let a bit of this feeling slip out when he said that if the Democrats win the White House “the danger is we’ll get hit again” by terrorists. Simply put, if Kerry got elected, there’d be a greater chance of terrorist attacks. Now there was a lot of screaming about his comments, but what I found enlightening was the Los Angeles Times, of all papers, coming to his defense. They argued, convincingly, that, “The war on terrorism is the central issue in the campaign … But the issue boils down to one question – Which candidate would do the best job, as president, of making sure that we don’t “get hit again.” And, moving on to the Democratic side, “Senators Kerry and John Edwards have been criticizing President Bush’s performance on terrorism since 9/11 and promising to do a better job at it if given the chance. In doing so, they surely mean to suggest that the risk of another terrorist attack will be greater if Bush and Cheney win the election. A vote for George W. Bush, in other words, is a vote for more terrorism. Or, if Kerry and Edwards don’t mean that, it’s hard to know what they do mean.” So both sides are saying the same thing, just civility keeps it in check. Humor, however, brings this truth to light. Now let’s turn to John Kerry’s message. He decries Bush for being as “dumb as a doorknob” and a “right wing nut job,” and suggests a “brain could be quite handy.” As for what he offers, John Kerry chooses to remind us that he’s “won three Purple Hearts” and, “Yes, it’s true, I won it thrice.” Again, can we really argue that this isn’t the deep thought of the Kerry campaign? From his “reporting for duty” comment at his convention to the veterans he trots out at campaign stops, more people know about his record in Vietnam than anything he did in the Senate. Also, it’s not a stretch to believe he thinks President Bush is an idiot. Heck, most of the Democrats I know have nothing but thinly veiled contempt for Bush’s competence. Again, this establishes for me how effective a tool humor can be. Why is it so many people our age get news from the Daily Show rather than, say, CNN? The humor and entertainment value is definitely a reason, but maybe we all recognize that inherent truthfulness in comedy. Perhaps we recognize why comedians like Dennis Miller, Bill Maher and others take pride in their humorous social commentary. It is more than a joke to them, because they also see truth in what they poke fun at. So let us all raise a toast to “This Land,” and just to humor. Let’s allow for a bit of levity in a tense election, and maybe suggest that instead of a presidential debate, the candidates should do their own reality spin-off show called “Last Candidate Standing.” Clemm can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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