While browsing through the new diary list this morning, I came across a wonderful diary by KAMuston about the "politics of personal destruction" in the Presidential campaign of 1884. This excellent diary, "Mud in Your Eye", is well worth a read and I highly recommend it.
It was not, however, the mud-slinging between the Cleveland and Blaine campaigns that prompted this diary. It was not even the Mugwumps and the "Drys". Well, actually, the Drys a little--more specifically what KAMuston had to say about the drys, formally known as the Prohibition Party. KAMuston suggested that, like some modern liberals, the Drys were "humorless". That's what caught my attention, and is the subject of this diary. Follow me over the break for a dry and humorless look at the modern, dour liberal. (Diarist's fingers are crossed behind his back....)
Note to the spelling and grammar police, that great enemy of humor and snark everywhere: the title is a play on an old (and very bad) baseball joke. Besides which, -LY is on vacation in Barbados.
This is what got me thinking this morning, from KAMuston's diary:
Prohibitionists were always a priggish bunch of humorless unforgiving bores, sort of like modern liberals
It is so true, I thought to myself, many of us can be humorless. And I'm not talking about the normal righteous indignation with which most of us would greet run-of-the-mill punchbowl turds such as a racist joke or a gay joke or a joke at the expense of, say, a prominent woman such as Dorothy Day or Rosa Luxemburg or--dog forfend--Betty Friedan. Or for that matter any joke alluding to the feminine mystique at all, most especially the peculiar mystique of blondes. No, indeed, humor in general which is not specifically aimed with sharp-shooter-like accuracy at the Right tends to be viewed as suspect, subversive even.
In my opinion, this is mostly because we are too busy rooting out that unspeakable evil, that most marginalizing act of oppression of the "other": making a joke at someone else's expense or worse, making a joke at our own expense--which would undermine the fervor with which we take our crusade for social justice. That a liberal or progressive should laugh at all, in fact, makes her suspect in the eyes of her political bedfellows. "What kind of secret bias is she harboring that she laughed out loud? Is she secretly racist? Classist? Hates Italian-Americans?" Indeed, humor is subversive to the liberal cause, as subversive as sex and taxes is to the Republican. (Though to be fair to Republicans, they certainly don't mind paying sales tax on food and liquor purchased at the myriad strip clubs which line the interstate highways of the South. Sometimes one can be found on each corner of an intersection, like whitewashed churches in a New England village.)
Now I will be the first to admit to making tasteless jokes about and taking merciless jabs at right wing politicians. I do this every week in my Awards Plus Edition diary. I even go so far as to call some of these folks "douchenozzles", due to their uncanny ability to cause a political clyster-f*&k. Now, as good liberals, can we pass up an opportunity to see a word like "douchenozzle" and immediately jump to the conclusion that this is somehow sexist? Of course we can't, though in my case, I am referring to the kind of douche used by some ueber-fastidious gay men as an anti-santorum precaution. (A precaution, by the way, which I personally eschew before sexual intimacy: not only is its frequent use unhealthy but as my mother always told me, "shit happens"). But to admit into the conversation that I might be referring to this takes away all the fun if you are a liberal. Let's face it: sexism isn't funny, and therefore it's more fun for the liberal to engage in some righteous indignation than it is to consider that perhaps a person is referring to a different sort of douche--one that is, in a rather puerile and scatological fashion, actually funny. Which, if you're a liberal, simply wouldn't do.
In fact, if one is a liberal as I am, any joke which could even be remotely suggestive of being made at the expense of any group or sub-group of a sub-group is strictly off-limits. Which leaves us with what? Jokes about Republicans which betray a transference of ridicule away from ethnicity, race, gender or national origin and on to our narrow minded tea-drinking troll friends on the right. And, frankly, not much else.
So, in order to square our language with our politics, we have necessarily eliminated all humor which could be construed as offensive to anyone. Which, quite frankly, severely limits our ability to laugh at ourselves or each other. It's really quite simple. The Drys, I'm fairly certain, would definitely approve.
Now, in all seriousness, I am not suggesting that we should revel in tasteless and hurtful jokes at the expense of others. The inimitable Bill Bryson, in his 1998 book Made in America: An Informal History of the English Language in the United States, addresses politically correct speech towards the end of that volume in a way which is erudite and, of course, humorous. He rightly takes some shots at some of the cruder (and more ignorant) attempts to correct gender bias in language ("herstory", one of the more ridiculous examples for its total lack of understanding about the etymology of the word "history" which has nothing whatsoever to do with "his", comes to mind) then goes on to make the case for intelligent correction where it makes linguistic sense. I am personally acquainted with a number of liberals who are so committed to erasing any kind of bias or inequality of any kind in speech that the exercise has, indeed, rendered them incapable of saying anything intelligible whatsoever. Let alone tell a joke.
Yes: we liberals tend towards the humorless. We have a penchant to be the party of "no" when it comes to speech. In that way, we have a lot more in common with the Prohibition Party than one might glean at first glance. In order to liberate myself from this downward spiral of humor repression, I am going to close with a limerick. A self deprecating one:
A humorless liberal from Maine
made a joke he thought was quite tame.
But his friends failed to laugh
at his horrible gaffe
not the least his one friend who was lame.
UPDATE: as I predicted, already some folks have responded to this diary in a sour, humorless fashion. I love it when, in a snark diary, people take it seriously in the comment thread. What I love even more, is when it's a snark diary about liberals having no sense of humor and people respond in such a fashion that my thesis is instantly proven correct. ;)