Tuesday, July 15, 2008

When irony fails

So this morning I was contemplating a return to blogging here after my rather unintentional hiatus, rolling around a tongue-and-cheek entry about the controversy over the recent The New Yorker cover, in which Barack Obama is depicted in Islamic regalia and his wife Michelle in circa-1968 Blank Panther gear. I was considering writing a mock-serious constitutional discussion saying that conservatives afraid that Obama's secretly a radical Muslim shouldn't worry, because while he'll certainly convert the executive branch to Wahabism, he'll have difficulty getting around the separation of powers to do the same to the legislative branch ... and indeed that the sheer difficulty of getting the senate to confirm his jihadist cabinet and Supreme Court nominees would effectively bog down his administration for pretty much the entirety of his first term.

Or something to that effect. Anyway, I was kicking this around in my head as I walked back from the student center with my lunch, only to sit down at my computer to see this: in an online poll conducted by WorldNetDaily, 59% of respondents said the image "isn't too far from the dangerous truth about the Obama family."

America, meet satire. Satire, meet America.

Of course, given that WorldNetDaily is an online forum that stands slightly to the right of Genghis Khan, this should not come as a surprise. What bothers me is that a lot of people on the left, including the Obama campaign -- which called the cover "tasteless and offensive" -- are taking offense at what is very obviously a satirical answer to the right-wing attacks on Obama's patriotism (why doesn't he wear a flag pin??), his wife (do we really want a militant black First Lady??), and of course the ongoing harping on his middle name and repeated suggestion that he's secretly a Muslim ... right down to their adorable little fist bump, labelled on Fox News as a "terrorist fist jab." Um ... what?

Part of my annoyance here is fueled by my increasingy frustration with what seems to be Obama's gradual shrinking from the kind of principled stands he started with. He's wearing the lapel pin now ... honestly, the presence or lack of which should never have been a story, never mind a major issue, but once it did he was going to get grief over it either way -- if he didn't wear it, he wasn't patriotic, and if he did, he was a flip-flopper. So why not leave it off? But no ... I swear to god, if he dresses up in camo and goes hunting a la John Kerry, I'm pitching myself off signal hill. (Incidentally, scrutinize the picture of John McCain here: do you see a flag pin? I guess he hates America, too).

I won't catalogue any of the other ways in which Obama has started pandering, reversing positions, and otherwise lurching to the right -- lord knows, you can pick all that up from conservative pundits gleefully fitting the senator out for a pair of flip-flops.

No, I'm just disappointed that his campaign felt compelled to respond to The New Yorker with the language of offense when this was a golden opportunity to rise above the fray like he has at times in the past: to point out that this is satire, and to further note the simplistic thought that underwrites the assumptions being satirized -- that Michelle Obama's ostensible lack of "pride" in America translates into black militancy, that a reluctance to be a jingoistic flag-waver translates into a hatred of country, that being Muslim translates into extremism. I would dearly love to hear Obama stand up and say, "I am not offended that people think I may be Muslim. But I am offended, as all Americans should be, by the suggestion that being Muslim necessarily makes you a potential terrorist. It's the equivalent of seeing every rural Midwesterner as a potential Timothy McVeigh."

Because, really, that's what The New Yorker is saying -- it's pointing to the absurdity and indeed stupidity of that mode of thought.

I suppose Jonathan Swift is lucky he's not writing today. Half the readers of "A Modest Proposal" would try to get him arrested, and the other half would be eagerly flicking on the Food Network in hopes of picking up some recipes.


Sheena said...

Thank you. This is the first comment I've heard on this non-issue that wasn't infuriating.

The editors of the New Yorker must be sorting through their e-mails and tearing out their hair right now.

Mandy said...

I'm with Sheena. I've made the awful mistake of reading the CBC reader comments on their article about the cover, and doing so has pretty much filled me with despair. The New Yorker cover so clearly points out the absolute absurdity of right-wing spin on Obama (including Michelle O's honours essay, taken completely out of context), and to see all the comments that would even begin to suggest that the intent is to expose the "danger" of Barack Obama (and the racism of the New Yorker) would be laughable, if not so completely disappointing.

Lesley said...

uh dude, seriously, welcome back...

As far as Obama is concerned...I am not a big fan of his, but I totally agree. Why flip flop like that...it's like the whole stand he had going for him, which I think is why he was chosen to lead the democrats, he's taken to softening in an effort to get elected in November. If you're going to come out fighting, keep fighting, don't just give up to get the media on board.

As far as his wife is concerned...we saw the same thing with Hilary during the Bill Clinton years. Heaven forbid a strong woman stand behind her man and support him or even have an opinion every now and then. The whole thing is stupid and I'm eager to get to November to get it all over with.

Esme B J Lee said...

Totally off topic of this post--but I am trying to find a Donne poem you referred to here:


It is the "Bat Out of Hades" which you attribute to Donne. Where can this be found? I am having a discussion with a number of poets and no one can find this poem?

If it is Donne and you have a published text, can you post in what book it can be found?

Barbara Jean