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Good riddance


I respect John Donegan's acuity with the English language. In fact, he sometimes expresses himself with such dexterity that one can almost lose track of the fact that the substance of his postulate is, essentially, claptrap.

Exhibit A (ahem, because he's an attorney) is his recent New Times column, "Humor and the left" (Jan. 13). He holds forth at length with his alleged "evidence" that "the left" has no sense of humor and that's why so many people have maligned Dave Chappelle's Netflix special, The Closer, in which Chappelle attempts to mine humor from blindsides against transgender people. He extends his premise to point out that "comedy is supposed to challenge" and claims that liberal thinking is now the "establishment" against which comedians must "rail."

It is true that America is a center-left country. Take a top 10 list of favorite liberal concepts (single-payer health care; a progressive income tax; a woman's right to privacy in her body; sensible gun-control legislation) and our citizens support them all, some by overwhelming majorities. However, does that popularity mean that liberal principles are establishment? If so, then why, with both houses of Congress virtually split down the middle, do Democrats represent 44 million more Americans than do Republicans?

My belief is that political humor is effective and funny when it skewers people and concepts that deserve to be skewered. Politicians on both sides of the aisle, when they exhibit self-serving hypocrisy, ought to be called to task for their brazenness. And, if an individual transgender person acts in a similar way, they are fair game. However, when you lampoon a group simply because they are members of that group, then you've stopped being observational and entered the dark chasm of discrimination.

Jokes about Donald Trump land repeatedly because he deserves them: He's a bankrupt, philandering, business-failing liar, and little effort is needed not only to prove those labels but to mine hilarity from their elucidation. Trump's calling card is hypocrisy, and he deserves to be heckled. By way of contrast, no trans individual deserves to be made fun of just because they are different from the majority.

There's a steady liberal arc to history, and the neanderthal musings of the likes of Donegan will eventually fade away, just as the arguments in favor of blackface "humor" have. To which I say, good riddance.

Will Powers

San Luis Obispo

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