Monday, November 1, 2010

Having It Both Ways

by Dee Newman

When I watched Jon Stewart’s interview with President Obama last week an unconscious uneasiness began to surface within me. Though I thought that Stewart’s sit-down with the president was very substantive – his questions fair, frank and tough, Stewart’s manner and tone, however, seemed impertinent. Several times during their conversation Stewart referred to the President as “dude.” Though, he may not have intended any disrespect, I immediately thought the salutation was offensive, and that it would surely give license to the president’s political adversaries to continue their foul and contemptuous character attacks on him.

As Stewart’s critics have often claimed, his shtick is to lampoon politicians, as well as, so-called “real” working reporters, while trying to have it both ways himself. They argue he can be as sanctimonious as those he skewers when it suits his purpose, and then, when confronted, smugly assert that he is just a comedian.

Though Stewart’s tenor during his interview with the president, seemed to me, to be a bit pretentious, nonetheless, when I awoke Friday morning at 3:00 am and began packing my car, I was still looking forward to driving to Washington, DC, to attend Stewart’s and Colbert’s Rally to Restore Sanity and/or Fear. However, by the time I finished eating breakfast, my mind was entertaining other possibilities.

As it turned out, by the time I reached Crossville on the Cumberland Plateau I had, indeed, decided to turn southward and not attend the Rally. I came to that conclusion reluctantly after I realized that all of us, not just Jon Stewart, try to have it both ways; that the desire to have it both ways, more than anything else, was what the Rally was all about; and that I did not want to participate in that reality. And so, on Saturday while a quarter of a million people rallied with Stewart and Colbert, I was hiking alone in an isolated area, climbing up and over and around giant boulders (many larger than my house) between Cane Creek Falls and Fall Creek Falls. (see photos)

Of course, I approve, even applaud Stewart and Colbert for revealing and calling attention to the mainstream media's use and promotion of fear, of shallow, oversimplified confrontation, while abandoning what is factual, substantive and respectful. I too am sick of the intolerance and the vitriol, and believe as Stewart does, “that if we are to get through the darkness and back into the light, we have to work together.”

But, let’s be honest. Notwithstanding Stewart’s plea for civility and compromise, to be outrage by the outrageous, to express righteous indignation over what is blatantly offensive, unfair, unjust and unreasonable, is not only altogether fitting and proper, it is vital, if our nation is to survive.

Outrage and indignation are powerful forces in politics, as well as, in political satire, to which both Stewart's and Colbert's careers can bear witness. Though it was a long time coming, outrage and indignation were what finally made it possible for Democrats to win control of Congress and the White House. It certainly got a hell-of-a-lot of them out to vote during the last two elections who normally would have stayed home.

Unfortunately, on Tuesday, those same forces, it seems, will compel conservatives to vote in large numbers and take back the House, and perhaps, the Senate.

Look, there aren’t many folks out there who are more “progressive” than I am. I was definitely born with a “liberal gene.” Though I find Jon Stewart to be a brilliant comedian and a thoughtful and wise man, those of us who respect and enjoy his satire and wisdom, who identify ourselves as “liberals”, can no longer afford to fall victim, once again, to our predilection to be so “broadminded”, as poet Robert Frost once described us, that we are unable “to take [our] own side in a quarrel."

Too many of us so-called “liberals”, once again, are going to sit out another election and allow conservatives to “take back their country.” And why? Because of our unrighteous indignation. Yes, because we are so incensed that President Obama and Congressional Democrats were unable to deliver, not on their promises, but on our naïve and unrealistic expectations.


mythopolis said...

Your last sentence says a lot. People have a 'messiah' complex about 'the president', and about politics in general. Political ads seem about how the other side is evil, and our side has the next messiah, etc. It's all going nowhere.

I didn't care for the Stewart interview. I didn't like his attitude, nor did I like to see Obama with his hands folded like a student at a desk. I would like to see him display some real anger and indignation now and then.

Stickup Artist said...

I've often noticed how people can get away with saying all manner of things by claiming, just joking! As if you aren't to be offended, you just have a bad sense of humor! I applaud your change of venue. That was a much more wonderful way to spend the day in my opinion. That waterfall shot is simply stunning as are all the images but that one sticks in my mind the most.

In a perverse way I think, let them "take the country back." Then they will see what they get for it... If they think it's bad now. Maybe that's what it will take.