Last week O’Reilly, on his program on Faux News, dealt with the nonissue of the rapper Common doing a poetry reading at the White House. Following the designated GOP ceaseless anti-Obama talking points, O’Reilly insisted that Common, who even O’Reilly conceded is known for pro-social lyrics and activities, lionized a couple of cop killers in some isolated lyrics.
O’Reilly argued that the Obama administration should not host such seedy people in the White House.
(Earlier in the week Karl Rove of Faux News called Common a “thug.” Rove knows of what he speaks. He and his Bush gang were involved in exposing undercover CIA agent Valerie Plame, and all of her covert CIA colleagues, as retribution for her husband’s opinions. Now that’s potentially murderous thuggery, Homes … although again it’s tangential to our discussion.)
Anyway, one of the guests on O’Reilly’s show said maybe it wasn’t Common “glorifying” the alleged cop killer, that maybe it was a character he was playing in the song. O’Reilly shouted down that argument before he even seemed to grasp it.
(America’s most famous rapper, Eminem, has a well-known alter ego named Slim Shady who is there to say things Eminem would not. Then again what do I know about rap? I’m a 52-year-old white guy who hardly has the energy to fight the puppy, let alone fight the power. This aside actually is not tangential but essential to the discussion.)
But this is what many artists and writers do. They take on roles. They try to get into the minds, and bodies, of others.
The greatest piece of satire ever was written almost 300 years ago by Jonathan Swift. “A Modest Proposal” is just as relevant, and just as funny, as it ever was. In the piece Swift plays a clueless boob who has an answer for the “Irish problem.” The fool says the only way to help the starving Irish would be to allow them to fatten their babies for a year and then sell those babies to the gentry. Then the babies would be eaten by the rich.
(The Irish were discriminated against for various reasons, including their poverty, lack of education and high birthrate, and many thought there wasn’t much that could be done to ever help the Irish. But in this post-racial/ethnicity country and world, we’re past that sort of mindset, according to O’Reilly, George Will and of course, Rove, who routinely calls white guys thugs. Or does he? There I go getting tangential again.)
Swift’s point was the poor Irish are already being eaten spiritually by the wealthy, so why not take it to the physical level?
I often try to write satire. It often is understood poorly by some. Maybe I’m just not good at it, neither swift nor Swift. But in doing satire I often try to take on the characters of people who say and do mean or hateful things, then just nudge their position ever so slightly into idiocy.
(Speaking of playing roles — and having not gone tangential in a couple paragraphs — I remember when “Brokeback Mountain” was a subject of considerable controversy. Various heterosexual males informed me Health Ledger and Jake Gyllenhaal had to be gay to play gay cowboys. I explained that it was acting, their profession. The men then asked me if I could play a gay cowboy. I said it would be difficult for me to act as a gay cowboy as I’m not gay, a cowboy nor an actor. I might try to play those roles in a column, however. Next week: “Brokeback Column”?)
Bret Kofford teaches writing at San Diego State University Imperial Valley campus. He can be reached at Kofford@roadrunner.com