Thursday, January 8, 2015

Non, Nous Ne Sommes Pas Charlie Hebdo

(*Updated below)

 There are very few media outlets in the United States comparable to Charlie Hebdo. In the magazine category, only The Onion and Cracked come remotely close. There's much more "satire" to be found on TV -- and I don't mean bland examples like Jon Stewart and Saturday Night Live. What's closest in mean-spirited spirit to Charlie is probably South Park, because it, too, was an equal opportunity offender, skewering religion, politics and popular culture, all with gleeful, provocative and tasteless abandon. Its creators, too, were targets of threats from fundamentalists of all stripes. The American response was to censor the lowbrow offensiveness.

We don't really "do" satire in this country. Nous ne sommes pas Charlie Hebdo (we are not Charlie Hebdo.)  Political cartoonists are a dying breed. As cartoonist/author Ted Rall noted in the L.A. Times, "more full-time staff political cartoonists were killed in Paris on Wednesday than may be employed at newspapers in the states of California, Texas and New York combined. More full-time staff cartoonists were killed in Paris on  Wednesday than work at all American magazines and websites combined. (There’s only one full-time staff political cartoonist at a website: Matt Bors. None at a magazine.)"

As a group, American publications have been particularly wary of publishing satirical cartoons of President Obama, lest they be accused of racism. The New Yorker came under such criticism during his first campaign in 2008, when its cover illustration simply skewered racial stereotypes of the Obamas as Kenyan Muslim Black Panther terrorist radicals. The offended audience missed the entire point.  




Granted, most right-wing artistic portrayals of the president have been racist, but Ted Rall -- who writes from the pretty far left -- suddenly had his own work rejected by many corporate newspaper pages and websites with the election of the first black president. He was most recently banned from Daily Kos because of what was construed to be an "ape-like" interpretation of Obama.

No, we don't do satire here. We are too easily offended. We're too busy manufacturing outrage and identifying with one side or the other of an oligarchic duopoly who'd just as soon kill us as look at us.

It's actually pretty hilarious that our repressive politicians and their staid propagandists of the corporate press are condemning the killing of French cartoonists as an assault on "freedom of the press." As I wrote about just the other day, the United States itself is abysmally low on the press freedom totem poll --  not because of "Islamic terrorism," but because of the terrorism of the hyper-capitalist police and surveillance state.

And despite all their pro-liberty editorializing, most major media outlets are refusing to publish the "blasphemous" cartoons that sparked Wednesday's massacre. They will give lip service to the right to be provocative, but heaven forfend that they be provocative themselves (unless, of course, it's propaganda provoking whatever negative sentiment the government wants them to project, as in recent anti-North Korean and anti-Putin sentiment, and obligingly characterizing all Muslim victims of American drone strikes as "militants.")

American writers, unlike the French cartoonists, are for the most part not willing to risk their lives and livelihoods for their beliefs and freedom of thought and expression. They're self-censoring, and their fear is spreading to the rest of the world.

The proud French tradition of afflicting the comfortable extends back to Rabelais, Moliere, Voltaire, those heady pre-Revolutionary days when street pamphleteers freely distributed insulting tracts and cartoons depicting the clergy and the Bourbons in most unflattering (and often scatological) lights. Francophile Andrew Hussey has an excellent piece today in the Times on the history of Parisian wit and also offers a rare nuanced look at the current strife between the French and Arab immigrants, who are confined to de facto ghettoes (banlieues) in the suburbs of the City of Light:
What is seen in the center of Paris as tweaking the nose of authority — religious or political — is seen out in the banlieues as the arrogance of those in power who can mock what they like, including deeply held religious beliefs, perhaps the only part of personal identity that has not been crushed or assimilated into mainstream French society.
What was gunned down on Wednesday in Paris was a generation that believed foremost in the freedom to say what you like to whomever you like. Parisians pride themselves on what they call “gouaille,” a kind of cheeky wit, based on free thinking and a love of provocation, that always stands in opposition to authority.


(Gustave Dore, illustration from Rabelais' Gargantua and Pantagruel)

Non, nous ne sommes pas Charlie Hebdo. When the PEN American Center for human rights and literary expression put out its 2013 report on self-censorship and the war on freedom of the press, Lewis Lapham of Lapham's Quarterly wrote that the coexistence of our Second Gilded Age and the rise of the police state is no coincidence. Rising income inequality and the class war have put a huge damper on satire. Where, he asked, are the Mark Twains of the 21st Century when the times are so ripe for a resurgence?
“There are,” said Twain, “certain sweet-smelling, sugarcoated lies current in the world which all politic men have apparently tacitly conspired together to support and perpetuate… We are discreet sheep; we wait to see how the drove is going and then go with the drove. We have two opinions: one private, which we are afraid to express, and another one -- the one we use -- which we force ourselves to wear to please Mrs. Grundy.
 ”It is the Mrs. Grundy of the opinion polls from whom President Barack Obama begs the favor of a sunny smile, to whom the poets who write the nation’s advertising copy sing their songs of love, for whom the Aspen Institute sponsors summer and winter festivals of think-tank discussion to reawaken the American spirit and redecorate the front parlor of the American soul.
The exchanges of platitude at the higher altitudes of moral and social pretension Twain celebrated as festive occasions on which “taffy is being pulled.” Some of the best of it gets pulled at the Council on Foreign Relations in New York when it is being explained to a quorum of the monied elite (contented bankers, corporate lawyers, arms manufacturers) that American foreign policy, rightly understood, is a work of Christian charity and an expression of man’s goodwill to man.
Contemporary American humor, writes Lapham, serves the purpose of amusing the sheep rather than shooting the elephants in the room. 

The grotesque American response to the murders of a dozen French satirists has been to gin up the xenophobia, ramp up the terrorist fear, to pit Fox News against MSNBC, and for all manner of religious fundamentalists and atheist ideologues to come out of their unhumorous cubicles to fan the distinctly  unnuanced flames. The mass murder of a dozen people will, unfortunately, present the perfect justification for the neo-cons to continue waging their own war of terror. Ask yourself what came first: Islamic extremism, or American provocation of it?

No, we Homelandians are definitely not Mark Twain or Rabelais or Voltaire or even Charlie Hedbo. And more's the pity. 

The French managed to eventually escape their own post-Revolutionary Reign of Terror. Will we?


"Love Is Stronger Than Hate"

* Update, 1/9: David North of the World Socialist Website has written an important piece that not only knocks down the hypocrisy of the West's reaction to the Parisian massacres, but criticizes the conventional wisdom that Charlie Hebdo is even part of the grand tradition of the European Enlightenment, when the satirists and cartoonists directed their scorn at the rich and powerful.
 In its relentlessly degrading portrayals of Muslims, Charlie Hebdo has mocked the poor and the powerless.
To speak bluntly and honestly about the sordid, cynical and degraded character of Charlie Hebdo is not to condone the killing of its personnel. But when the slogan “I am Charlie” is adopted and heavily promoted by the media as the slogan of protest demonstrations, those who have not been overwhelmed by state and media propaganda are obligated to reply: “We oppose the violent assault on the magazine, but we are not—and have nothing in common with—‘Charlie.’”
(snip)
The cynically provocative anti-Muslim caricatures that have appeared on so many covers of Charlie Hebdo have pandered to and facilitated the growth of right-wing chauvinist movements in France. It is absurd to claim, by way of defense of Charlie Hebdo, that its cartoons are all “in good fun” and have no political consequences. Aside from the fact that the French government is desperate to rally support for its growing military agenda in Africa and the Middle East, France is a country where the influence of the neo-fascist National Front is growing rapidly. In this political context, Charlie Hebdo has facilitated the growth of a form of politicized anti-Muslim sentiment that bears a disturbing resemblance to the politicized anti-Semitism that emerged as a mass movement in France in the 1890s.

In its use of crude and vulgar caricatures that purvey a sinister and stereotyped image of Muslims, Charlie Hebdo recalls the cheap racist publications that played a significant role in fostering the anti-Semitic agitation that swept France during the famous Dreyfus Affair, which erupted in 1894 after a Jewish officer was accused and falsely convicted of espionage on behalf of Germany. In whipping up popular hatred of Jews, La Libre Parole [“Free Speech”], published by the infamous Edoard Adolfe Drumont, made highly effective use of cartoons that employed the familiar anti-Semitic devices. The caricatures served to inflame public opinion, inciting mobs against Dreyfus and his defenders, such as Emile Zola, the great novelist and author of J’Accuse.
North is right. Look at the cartoon posted above. The generic Arab man has the stereotypical hooked nose, while the journalist he's French-kissing (a slur against alleged Muslim homophobia) is rendered as a relative milquetoast, pencil behind the ear and all. I haven't looked at past issues of the magazine, but I should. It's  now guaranteed to increase its circulation to numbers unimaginable only a couple of days ago. I think we're in for a huge surge of fascism, a new Reign of Terror in France and beyond, and I think it's going to get mighty ugly, mighty fast.

Let's hope that NYC Mayor Bill de Blasio stands his ground and doesn't restore the Bloomberg-era police profiling of Muslims, a practice that he abolished soon after taking office. 

As religion scholar Karen Armstrong writes in her excellent book, Fields of Blood, "every one of the (extreme fundamentalist) movements I have studied has been rooted in fear – in the conviction that modern society is out to destroy not only their faith but also themselves and their entire way of life," adding that "whenever a fundamentalist movement is attacked, either with violence or in a media campaign, it almost invariably becomes more extreme." 

She compares fundamentalist Islam with fundamentalist American-style right-wing Christianity, both of which actually thrive whenever they're attacked. Such attacks prove to them that their fears are well-grounded, that the elite secular forces really are out to get them.

And meanwhile, militant atheist Bill Maher, that witty epitome of a creepy new breed of intolerant liberalism, is already back on his soapbox to accuse "hundreds of millions of Muslims" of tacitly approving the murders in France. He's a one-man flame-throwing media army unto himself. What constitutes the American liberal class doesn't dare criticize his so-cool and enlightened vitriol lest they give ammunition to his sometime-paramour and co-bigot Ann Coulter.

That's how simplistic our Homelandian group-think has become. Pick your  side, and then don't ever think outside their pre-approved corporate lockbox.

25 comments:

Kat said...

Oh, I don't know. There is a lot of good satire in the US- just not a lot of audience for it with our relentless focus on optimism. I suppose this has always been part of the American experience but in the past maybe there were more people who realized which side they were on.
A recent NYT article lamented the lack of stories coming out of the recession. (instead "stories" has become a word coopted by marketing). I grew a little frustrated. I do lament that there has not been enough regional reporting, but there has been some good films. Andrew O'Heir over at Salon manages to find them.
We watched Nightcrawler the other night and I cannot recommend it highly enough. The air that NYT critics breathe is rarefied enough that they totally missed the whole disposable people/employees late stage capitalism slant. They surely missed that the protagonist peppered his speech with Tom Friedmanisms.
As for Charlie Hebdo, from what I've read it looks like it would appeal to fans of Christopher Hitchens. For me, it just didn't seem to funny or subtle.

Kat said...

Also in the war on terror-- Quaeda linked (I think) group kills 37 people in bombing in Yemen.
I wonder which country-- France or Yemen-- will be drone bombed to root out Islamic militants?

Denis Neville said...

That was excellent, Karen.

I was happy that you referenced Lewis Lapham’s beautiful piece of writing, “The Solid Nonpareil From Mesopotamia to Mark Twain, the question has remained the same for thousands of years—who's laughing now?”

“We have today a second Gilded Age more magnificent than the first, but our contemporary brigade of satirists doesn’t play with fire. The marketing directors who produce the commodity of humor for prime-time television aim to please, to amuse the sheep, not shoot the elephants in the room and the living room. They prepare the sarcasm-lite in the form of freeze dried sound bites meant to be dropped into boiling water at Gridiron dinners, Academy Award ceremonies and Saturday Night Live. “There is a helluva distance,” said Dorothy Parker, “between wisecracking and wit. Wit has truth in it....” George Bernard Shaw seconded the motion, “My way of joking is to tell the truth. It’s the funniest joke in the world.”

http://www.laphamsquarterly.org/comedy/solid-nonpareil

Like Lapham, I also read the “saving grace” of Twain to escape, if only briefly, the “peacock-shams” of the world’s “colossal humbug.”

“Laughter is wine for the soul - laughter soft, or loud and deep, tinged through with seriousness - the hilarious declaration made by man that life is worth living.” - Seán O'Casey

Kat said...

Actually, after I wrote my comment I thought I should have written "fans of Bill Maher". Christopher Hitchens was my fundamentalist atheist/Islamaphobe of choice, but the unfunny (and sexist, and anti muslim) maher would have been a better choice for my "shorthand".

4Runner said...

The statement of David North that "the covers of Charlie Hebdo have pandered to and facilitated the growth of right-wing chauvinist movements in France" is a bit far-fetched. With its weekly circulation of 60,000 its influence is certainly not mass-media, as say the weekly Paris Match with 1,360,000.

Denis Neville said...

Kat said... “Christopher Hitchens was my fundamentalist atheist/Islamaphobe of choice”

“To be able to bray that 'as a liberal, I say bomb the shit out of them,' is to have achieved that eye-catching, versatile marketability that is so beloved of editors and talk-show hosts. As a life-long socialist, I say don't let's bomb the shit out of them. See what I mean? It lacks the sex appeal, somehow. Predictable as hell." - Christopher Hitchens, 1985

In 2002, among Hitchens' various grotesque invocations of Islam to justify violence on "Islamo-fascism,"

“If you’re actually certain that you’re hitting only a concentration of enemy troops…then it’s pretty good because those steel pellets will go straight through somebody and out the other side and through somebody else. And if they’re bearing a Koran over their heart, it’ll go straight through that, too. So they won’t be able to say, “Ah, I was bearing a Koran over my heart and guess what, the missile stopped halfway through.” No way, ’cause it’ll go straight through that as well. They’ll be dead, in other words.” – Christopher Hitchens, advocating the use of cluster bombs by the USA in Afghanistan

http://www.thenation.com/article/left-and-911?page=0,3#

Hitchens also once wrote of Columbus Day that the extermination of the Native Americans should be celebrated as a fact of historical progress.

annenigma said...

Minor correction: Karen (not Anne) Armstrong wrote 'Fields of Blood'


Karen Garcia said...

Thanks, Anne, fixed it.

Apparently, even with its relatively small circulation, the Charlie newspaper is featured on newsstands all over Paris, so that passersby still get an eyeful without ever needing to buy a copy.

Watching the corporate news on CBS just now... the rhetoric is very jingoistic and Nine-Elevenish. Deja vu all over again... the bloodthirsty neocons are gloating. You have to admit that the chorus of "the Muslims hate us for our free speech freedoms" has an extremely hollow ring to it.

Denis Neville said...

Some of the Charlie Hebdo cartoons about religion (not only Islam) are offensive and bigoted.

The Angry Arab’s observations on Charlie Hebdo:

“[They] did not "equally" mock Muslims and Jews and others. This is like the way Islam is mocked by Bill Maher and others in the US: they don't hold the same standards. They reserve a special bitter and vicious streak against Islam and Muslims, and remember that France is not a country of absolute freedom of speech. You can go to jail in France and pay a fine if you offend Jewish people by mocking, say, the Holocaust. I believe that either there should be laws to protect the feelings of all religions, or--I prefer--there should not be protection whatsoever. If there are idiots and bigots who want to offend Jews and Muslims they should be allowed to make fool of themselves.”

“I feel strongly about the right to offend and to mock as an artist (and as a human being). That right should be absolute. It is idiotic for many reasons for Muslims to be easily provoked. Muslims do need to lighten up, and should feel secure enough to stomach mockery and satire against their religion. And they should not allow their enemies (even the bigots among them) to provoke them so easily.”

http://angryarab.blogspot.co.uk/2015/01/notes-on-bombing-and-shooting-in-paris.html

Joe Sacco on the limits of satire – and what it means if Muslims don’t find it funny:

http://www.theguardian.com/world/ng-interactive/2015/jan/09/joe-sacco-on-satire-a-response-to-the-attacks?view=mobile

Why did al-Qaeda attack Charlie Hebdo?

Juan Cole writes, “This horrific murder was not a pious protest against the defamation of a religious icon. It was an attempt to provoke European society into pogroms against French Muslims.” They were hoping to provoke an overreaction like bin Laden did with such spectacular success with 9/11.

http://www.juancole.com/2015/01/sharpening-contradictions-satirists.html

“The goal of any organized terrorist attack is to goad a vastly more powerful enemy into an excessive response. And over the past nine years, the United States has blundered into the 9/11 snare with one overreaction after another…Could any enemy of the United States have achieved more with less? Could bin Laden, in his wildest imaginings, have hoped to provoke greater chaos?” - Ted Koppel, Washington Post, 2010

North is right.

Who's laughing now?

annenigma said...

Well it makes sense. American Anwar al-Awlaki's voice was permanently silenced via drone for exercising freedom of expression after making online speeches. Obviously he should have used satirical cartoons instead, then Obama and America would have 'stood with him'. Live and learn. Or maybe not.

annenigma said...

Karen Armstrong has written about all the world's major religions except one, Capitalism. I capitalize it because the deity is always capitalized.

There's nothing new about Capitalism. Jesus probably saw it coming when he tossed the tables of the money changers. It's been slipping under the radar for a long time, hiding itself inside other religions like a Trojan Horse or virus that seeks to appropriate the host DNA to escape detection of the immune system. But now it's so powerful and pervasive a force that it can't hide anymore.

It still isn't called a religion, but it should be. It not only has a foundational belief system and a God (Capital), but has also developed into a coherent global structure and hierarchy - the international banking system.

The Capitalist religion is gaining so much power that it has gained control over our very lifeblood - our basic needs of food and water. It is increasingly commodifying, privatizing, and controlling their prices and access to the rest of us. They've already willfully poisoned our earth, air, and seas, and the products thereof, for the almighty $. The God$ of Capitalism are even now on the verge of even more control. The passage of global trade agreements will usurp the laws and rights of nations as well as individuals. They are of course doing God'$ work since God is Money and Vice versa.

Unbelievers are heretics to be labeled marxists, communists, socialists, and terrorists, and condemned, persecuted, prosecuted, ostracized, spied upon, or assassinated.

Wars are fought for Capital but under the banner of heaven. Increasingly, our justice system, prison system, political system, military, and educational systems are getting in tune. Nations around the world are being buying in, thanks to the God$ of Capitalism and the economic sanctions used to force others into the cult.

Capitalism is far more than an economic system. It's a dangerous and destructive religious cult, an organized system of materialist, consumerist, and selfish beliefs revolving around money, selfish interests, and private profit at any cost. It's killing us and our mother Earth.

Wait... am I describing the anti-Christ?

annenigma said...

Oh, and one more thing. Capitalists exempt themselves from taxes just like a religion.

Now I rest my case.

The Black Swan said...

@annenigma,

Thank you. This needs to be said more and more, and said everywhere. Our world is ruled by the death cult of Capitalism, and it needs to be stopped.

Will said...

Speaking of Capitalism, I saw this video of MLK earlier & he had some very interesting things to say on the subject. You won't learn about this version of King in our history books, that's for sure.

MLK On Economic Justice: http://youtu.be/n4vdfugMFbg

Pearl said...

Viewed the movie "Network" written by Paddy Chayefsky in l976, on Public TV last night. I had forgotten how truly brilliant a film it is and the dialogue and acting superb. A definition of Capitalism in one scene fits Annenigma and others'comments to a T. The review in Maltin's movie guide states 'a courageous satire on television looks less and less like fantasy as the years pass.' A riveting film worth seeing again.

Denis Neville said...

The super-rich have separated themselves from the lives of the rest of us to such an extent that economic crises scarcely touch them. Their greed is disguised as sophisticated economic theory that is applied to the rest of us regardless of the outcomes.

What about the rest of us? Our human values have been discarded by the super-rich and their minions.

We lack economic democracy.

“For the past 200 years, men and women have fought stoically for political democracy. Now we should fight for economic democracy. The natural wealth of the world, its land, its soils, its crops, minerals, water, forests, fish, is limited. The wealth arising from its use and multiplied through all the complex layers of the modern economy, is also limited, bounded ultimately, as the subprime mortgage crisis showed us, by the real value of assets in the physical world. Just as it was wrong for monarchs and aristocrats to concentrate so much political power in their hands, so it is wrong that billionaires and corporations should be permitted to seize so much of the common treasury of humankind: the wealth arising from the use of a finite planet.

“We deserve a political and economic system that redistributes both wealth and the decisions about how it is used. Not communism, but an advanced form of social democracy.” - George Monbiot,

http://vimeo.com/groups/146190/videos/44447119

annenigma said...

Thanks Will. Powerful truth is such a short piece of video. No wonder they had to have him killed.

It's snowing AGAIN, so I've been inside thinking, particularly about how Dr. MLK's message has been totally whitewashed. He talked from a moral perspective about the triplets of evil - racism, militarism, and materialism - but MLK Day has now been twisted to focus on volunteering and service. Service as in being good SERVANTS.

We also we have the story of Jesus throwing a hissy fit (pardon me) over the money grubbers in the temple. But his message got passed down to us as being about turning the other cheek, giving freely to those who ask, being faithful and awaiting your reward from your Father in Heaven, blah, blah, blah. It's always about being a good SERVANT, which is not any more consistent with Jesus' life than volunteering is for MLK's. Activism, rocking the boat/bankers desks is never part of the message that is allowed to survive. That tells us that they were assassinated by power forces to silence the message itself. Lone assassins don't get to twist the message. Those behind the killing get to do that.

I wonder how many other leaders and followers have been killed over the millennia for being a threat to the worship of Mammon, and how their message was later deliberately twisted to manipulate us into mental, if not physical, servitude. Of course it's hard to tell what the real teachings were since the victors/killers write the history and they now own the media. The changing message of MLK just during our lifetime should serve as a valuable lesson. The fact that we have corporate media makes that manipulation far too easy.

We can keep our leaders teachings and message alive in our own lives, but maybe we can also actually keep them alive or restore them to life as well. That might be another teaching that was deliberately silenced.

annenigma said...

It just occurred to me that if the Paris killers had been advertisers with Charlie Hebdo, they could have simply threatened to pull their ads. That's how our corporate system of protest/censorship works. Unfortunately, there are fewer options for those without money or clout.

That limitation also applies to the battlefield where we believe only we have the right to kill for our value$ and belief$.

Kat said...

Ah yes, the "day of service".
"Where, as is the case, a Negro leader vigorously opposes that which he should be fighting for and makes it clear that some other folks' interests are of more concern to him than his own people's - well the so called "politically wise" my say "oh that's just politics-- forget it." But the so called "politically dumb" just can't see it that way. How can we be led by people who are not going our way?
There are others, honest men beyond all doubt and sincerely concerned with their people's welfare, who seem to feel that it is the duty of a leader to discourage Negro mass action. They think that best results can be achieved by the quiet negotiations they carry on. And so when something happens that arouses the masses of people, and when the people gather in righteous anger to demand that militant actions be started, such men believe it their duty to cool things off.”
-Paul Robeson

Anonymous said...

I love this piece. I would add my favorite satirist, Charles Dickens to the list of defenders of justice. He was the primary literary inspiration of historian Howard Zinn.

Denis Neville said...

annenigma said... “We can keep our leaders teachings and message alive in our own lives, but maybe we can also actually keep them alive or restore them to life as well.”

Amen!!!

Not only the teachings and messages and lives of our leaders…

Mark Twain learned a lifelong lesson about compassion from his mother:

“There was, however, one small incident of my boyhood days which touched this matter, and it must have meant a good deal to me or it would not have stayed in my memory, clear and sharp, vivid and shadowless, all these slow-drifting years. We had a little slave boy whom we had hired from someone, there in Hannibal. He was from the Eastern Shore of Maryland, and had been brought away from his family and his friends, half way across the American continent, and sold. He was a cheery spirit, innocent and gentle, and the noisiest creature that ever was, perhaps. All day long he was singing, whistling, yelling, whooping, laughing — it was maddening, devastating, unendurable. At last, one day, I lost all my temper, and went raging to my mother, and said Sandy had been singing for an hour without a single break, and I couldn’t stand it, and wouldn’t she please shut him up. The tears came into her eyes, and her lip trembled, and she said something like this —

“Poor thing, when he sings, it shows that he is not remembering, and that comforts me; but when he is still, I am afraid he is thinking, and I cannot bear it. He will never see his mother again; if he can sing, I must not hinder it, but be thankful for it. If you were older, you would understand me; then that friendless child’s noise would make you glad.

It was a simple speech, and made up of small words, but it went home, and Sandy’s noise was not a trouble to me anymore. She never used large words, but she had a natural gift for making small ones do effective work. She lived to reach the neighborhood of ninety years, and was capable with her tongue to the last — especially when a meanness or an injustice roused her spirit.” - Mark Twain, The Autobiography of Mark Twain: The Complete and Authoritative Edition, Volume One


My own mother made a lasting impression on my life. She taught me by example what it meant to be kind. As a lapsed Catholic, she was judged by some “pious” family members not to be a fit mother. However, her religion was very simple. Her religion was kindness.

“Behind every great person there is someone who enabled his or her ascension. These friends, relatives, partners, muses, colleagues, coaches, assistants, lovers, teachers, and caretakers deserve some credit… When you consider your own life, there are dozens of people who have guided you along your path — whether a teacher from fifth grade who finally got you to raise your hand in class, a family friend who gave you your first camera, or that whiskey-sipping neighbor who’d tell you stories of his childhood. These relationships shape our lives, some lightly and others with more impact.” - Julia Rothman, Jenny Volvovski, Matt Lamothe, The Who, the What, and the When: 65 Artists Illustrate the Secret Sidekicks of History

Carol S. said...

Sorry to sign in as "Anonymous" at 8:31 above.

Valerie Tweedie said...

Annenigma - You are on fire! Well, done and absolutely on target! Denis, thank you for the beautiful quote from Mark Twain.

Just an observation on satire - We had our own satirist in Onkel Dankbar (Uncle Thankful) a couple of months ago. He was an "old man" with "conservative views" that sadly, aren't that out of sinc with much of the Republican Party in the U.S. Yet, instead of embracing the satire, we read it at face value and responded with a fair bit of hostility. Just sayin' . . .

Karen Garcia said...

"There are two kinds of humor. One kind that makes us chuckle about our foibles and our shared humanity -- like what Garrison Keillor does. The other kind holds people up to public contempt and ridicule -- that's what I do. Satire is traditionally the weapon of the powerless against the powerful. I only aim at the powerful. When satire is aimed at the powerless, it is not only cruel -- it's vulgar." -- Molly Ivins.

Valerie said...

I guess I don't consider the pernicious and sadly prevalent views that Onkel Dankbar was poking fun at as those of the powerless. I happen to be a Molly Ivins fan and when I saw her speak and make either that particular comment or one very close to it, she was commenting on Rush Limbagh making fun of Chelsea Clinton's awkward appearance during her teenage years.

I actually think Molly Ivins would have "gotten" Onkel Dankbar.

Sadly, Onkel Dankbar's views didn't sound all that different from the political views many members of my family spout - nice people who religiously listen to propaganda day in and day out on the MSM. And that is something we should all be very concerned about.