Saturday, January 23, 2010

Humor and Partisanship


I believe that the following is true in many contexts, but especially in the religious and the political: If you lose your sense of humor, you better get it back.

Consider religion. If you cannot withstand jokes and humor about your religious beliefs, then you are permitting religion's dark side to control you. If you respond to such humor in a violent way, then you are positively dangerous.

Jews have an amazing sense of humor about their religion. Not only do they tolerate jokes about it, but they make fun of it themselves all the time. In my experience, Mormons tend to do fairly well with humor directed at them, although this may be a function of the fact that they simply must do this, considering what a common target they tend to be. In this spirit, I can appreciate a good joke about my own spiritual meanderings in good humor. Once I can't, I'll know that I'm doing something very wrong.

Consider politics. I like to watch a variety of political shows. I was thinking about the best known of them. On the right, they are Bill O'Reilly, Sean Hannity, and Glenn Beck. On the left, they are Chris Matthews, Rachel Maddow, and Keith Olbermann.

Of these six, the one who always looks like he's smelling a fart is Keith Olbermann. This is why I cannot stand to watch him. He has no genuine sense of humor. What humor he has is bitter and angry.

Lest you suspect me of partisanship, let me point out how much I enjoy watching Rachel Maddow. Although I disagree with her about 96% of the time, I enjoy her immensely. She is funny, snarky, aware, alert, and thought provoking. Bravo to her.

Chris Matthews is not much for humor, but he does not come off as bitter and angry. I also enjoy watching him.

Of the conservatives, I enjoy O'Reilly the most. He has a genuine sense of humor and is not (in spite of what his critics say) overly partisan. Those who don't watch him regularly would be amazed about how often he breaks with the right-wing line. He tends to talk too much when he has guests, which can drive me nuts sometimes.

Then there is the infamous Glenn Beck. I apologize to his haters, but I often find the guy hilarious. His brain fires in such random ways that the spectacle can bust a gut. Everyone, even his supporters, knows that he can be a bit odd in the head, so I take him with a grain of salt.

Sean Hannity is my least favorite of these, and that's because I think that he doesn't have enough of a sense of humor. He smiles a lot and whatnot, but he is so unrelentingly partisan that he never surprises me. I like to be surprised every once in a while. His jokes almost always have a partisan edge--way too much "I told you so" kind of stuff. The strongest part of his show is the Great American Panel, which frequently contains interesting people from a variety of perspectives.

So laugh a little bit! Be willing to put up with a little ridicule of your beliefs every once in a while! It really is possible for people of radically different perspectives actually to like one another and to be good friends, but only if they both have a good sense of humor!

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