I was stuck in traffic one day and I couldn’t help but notice the truck in front of me had a decal on the back window of the cabin section. The sticker depicted a cowboy urinating on the word “Obama”. The cowboy was drawn in such a way as to depict this character looking at you and sneering conspiratorially as if to say, “I guess I shouldn’t really do this, but it’s so dang funny, aint it?”
As a matter of fact, it’s not funny, well at least it’s not funny to me. Humor can be a very serious business. Often, being humorous involves taking a risk, saying the unspeakable, sticking your neck out and risking the backlash that might follow what you’ve just said. Let me give you an example. Recently a friend of mine was going through a very painful divorce and I emailed her. In the email I said something like I know how awfully stressful this time of your life must be right now, and I just wanted you to know that if you need anything, anything at all, please, please don’t bother me. I knew that in trying to be funny, I was risking hurting her. I also felt however that she knew me well enough to interpret the email in the spirit in which it was intended, namely, just thought I’d cheer you up with a wee chuckle. Next time I met her she told me she nearly wet her knickers she laughed so hard, so that was a relief.
Now, there have been times when I’ve tried to be funny in other situations and the humor has completely backfired on me. Never joke about women’s weight is a very harsh lesson I’ve learned. So, I hope you get my point here, when you’re trying to be funny, you take a risk.
A lot of humor is based on us laughing at a victim. Clown slips on a banana skin and falls? Hilarious. Which takes us back to the picture of the President of the United States being urinated on, or at least, his name is being defiled in this manner. The man who put that there thought it was funny. He assumed others would think it funny and if they did it he would bask in the humorous afterglow – a man to be admired for having uttered publicly the unspeakable.
I respect the right we have in Western democracies to make fun of our political leaders. I will defend that right vigilantly for I have lived in countries where one is not allowed to make negative remarks about the political establishment. But here’s what strikes me as really odd about the man who put the sticker on his car of a cowboy urinating on the word “Obama”. This is a man who probably claims to be proud to be American. As a proud American, doesn’t it behoove you to show some respect for the office of the President? Not that this means you can’t criticize him. You can, in fact you should be critical of the entire political establishment, but there are limits I believe. You shouldn’t issue death threats to them. You shouldn’t harass their children. And you shouldn’t show a picture on your car of a cowboy urinating on the name of the President of the United States, period.
Brian O’ Nuanain runs “Across The Pond And Beyond”, a company that organizes international vacations. You can reach him at acrossthepondandbeyond.com