Before we pillory someone for the new crime of lèse majesté, shouldn’t we first determine whether there was any lèse intended at all? The rodeo clown who set the political world on fire by doing to President Barack Obama what he’d done to presidents since Ronald Reagan asked to speak with Kansas City television station KCTV to set the record straight — and marvel at the priorities of Hopenchange America:
“I didn’t think anything more of it than what we’ve done 15 years ago, ten years ago, five years ago, when we’ve done it with Bush, Clinton and Ronald Reagan,” Gessling said.
But this time, race entered the equation. A white man dressed in a mask of a black president was just offensive to a lot of people.
“I never did anything because of anybody’s race. I don’t care what color somebody is. If they’re blue, white, green, polka dotted, striped … it doesn’t bother me one bit,” Gessling said.
Tuffy Gessling has endured five death threats, numerous angry confrontations, and a woman who spit in his face, based on a routine that is probably older than most of the people offended by it. So what’s changed? Gessling figures that people have lost their ability to laugh, at themselves and their favored institutions, and a large amount of their perspective, too:
“I actually think that a lot of people have lost their ability to laugh,” Gessling said. “Look at the country as a whole, there is a lot more to be mad at than a rodeo clown at a rodeo trying to make somebody laugh.”
Well … at least during Democratic administrations, anyway. The hysteria over a silly rodeo skit boggles the mind, and it’s not benign, either. Despite the fact that presidential face masks have a long history in the US for satire and entertainment, and perhaps especially so during the administration of Obama’s predecessor, this new-found abhorrence of offending the dignity of a sitting President does not bode well for political speech of any kind in the future. Will wearing a presidential mask for satirical purposes during a possible Hillary Clinton administration be automatically assumed to be an act of unconscionable sexism, too, rather than just humor or criticism?
The lesson here is this: Toughen up, buttercups. And I’m not talking about Tuffy Gessling, either.