Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Laugh Away -- Just Not When Someone Gets Hurt

I thank Dr. Helen Smith for again sticking up for men and boys everywhere.

I have no idea why anyone would consider it funny when anyone else is hurt, and writing around (or on the ground) in pain.

A few years ago, I was in NYC with friends, and I decided to take a break from the bar scene to grab some bottled water at a nearby all-night-deli. I excused myself and walked about half a block west. In the time I was in the store, getting my liter of water (probably for about $6.49), it began to rain. POUR. I said, "Oh, jeez," and then ran as quickly as I could back to the bar. It didn't help. Upon my re-entrance, tugged at my drenched shirt and made some comment to the effect of, "Well, I wanted water, and I got it!" and one of my friends laughed. He apologized immediately for laughing, but I said, "It's okay! You can laugh; it was funny." On the other hand, had I been HURT instead of wet, and people had laughed, I would have been very upset.

On Sesame Street many years ago, there was an episode on which one of the adult characters hurts his thumb while using a hammer. Oscar the Grouch appears and asks what the commotion is, and the man explains what happens, adding, "You probably think this is funny." But, in one of the great moments of the show's history, Oscar says, "No! I laugh at people sometimes, but I don't laugh when someone is in pain. Pain HURTS!"

If only television writers, screenwriters, and Madison Avenue writers would watch more Sesame Street.

Sunday, April 25, 2010

One Published Letter, One Irate Reader. Check.

A letter of mine appeared in the Philadelphia Inquirer today. Sweet placement, too, as I'm batting leadoff in a Sunday section:

I'm not affiliated with the Tea Party movement, but I am taken aback by how quick its opponents are to dismiss it as a band of racists. Now E.J. Dionne has joined the chorus, albeit in a muted fashion (Apr. 20).

If about 11% of Americans are African-Americans, and about 6% of Tea Party supporters are African-Americans (as a Gallup poll tells us), then I really don't see that as a huge disparity.

When pressed for evidence that the Tea Party comprises 2010's version of segregationists and would-be slave-owners, its opponents either repeat anecdotes of racial slurs (mostly unsubstantiated) or point out all the white faces -- as if "Caucasian" is now automatically a synonym for "bigot." Meanwhile, African-Americans and Latinos who align themselves with the Tea Party movement, or identify themselves in any way as conservative, receive even more vitriol, being called "Uncle Toms," "Oreos," "coconuts," and "traitors." Isn't it a tad wrong to suggest that all members of a race should think the same way about everything?

Calling one's opponent "racist" used to be the last, desperate step when losing an argument. Sadly, it's become the first.

I've gotten some good feedback, but, of course, not everyone's a fan:

"Your letter simply underscores the frightened and frantic politics of the far right wing...[B]y the way, if you believe that the far right wing fringe of the Tea Party movement is not motivated by racism, you are either not paying attention or you are ridiculously obtuse."

The more intelligtent readers will, no doubt, take note that my letter wasn't about any far-right wing OR far-left wing of any movement; it was about a movement as a whole. It's buoying when someone is so kind as to prove my point so soon after my work meets the public eye.