I love Kathy Griffin and loathe Donald Trump. I like Rosie O’Donnell and am fed up with Rosanne Barr, who I would probably loathe if I didn’t believe she was in the grip of a severe mental health crisis.
Of course, I believe that Trump has severe mental health issues too and I still loathe him.
Maybe it’s because he occupies the office of what used to be the Leader of the Free World and can actually change the course of history, not to mention end the entire world as we know it.
All Roseanne can do is hate tweet, post ranting videos and be on a sitcom I wouldn’t watch.
This all bubbled up on Thursday night after seeing Kathy Griffin do a hilarious, dishy, touching and sometimes sad three-hour solo comedy show at the Dolby Theatre in Los Angeles.
The sad part wasn’t so much about the comic as it was about us and the cesspool of faux outraged, social media manipulated, human rights curtailing, conspiracy-based citizenry we have become.
Many of us falsely believed that the social upheaval of the 1960s gave birth to a new time where we left McCarthyism behind and people could feel free to express their politics in any way they saw fit as long as they didn’t physically hurt anyone.
I, for one, can recall the late 1970s when, as a Jewish kid in grad school in Chicago, I heard the Nazis had chosen, of all places, to hold a big rally in the nearby heavily Jewish neighborhood of Skokie.
How could I be studying journalism in the U.S. and deny that these Hitler acolytes had the legal right to march right down the streets of that neighborhood? I couldn’t if I believed in freedom of speech, of religion, of the press and of peaceful assembly.
I mean, sure – I could will them to eat shit and die but I couldn’t actually poison it myself or let anyone else do it. I could show up in a counter demonstration where I sang Barbra Streisand songs or played the score of Fiddler on the Roof from my boom box but back in 1977 I’m not sure anyone would have gotten it.
There was always the option of hurling rocks at them and starting a brawl but at 20 years old I was not ready to betray anything I believed in…quite yet. And even if I could, I’d never be able to throw straight. At that point I was having a hell of a time even being straight.
The above all refers to rights enshrined in the First Amendment to the Constitution, which reads as follows:
Amendment I. Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the government for a redress of grievances.
In the last 40 years we have evolved on many issues. Gay people have the right to be married; public schools are integrated, as are most private institutions. Women can work and get closer to equal pay (well, 80 cents on the dollar) and, as of this weekend anyway, they still have the right to choose.
Very win-win, right?
But what we are beginning to fail at miserably is holding up the very basic tenants of the first amendment.
We now have elected (sort of) a president who ran his campaign on, and is actively trying to, ban Muslims and any other number of non-whites from entering the country in the name of national security; defends the point of view of white nationalists and foreign dictators as good people and strong leaders; and attacks the mainstream, fact-based press daily by calling its multi-sourced, fully vetted stories fake news and its reporters very bad people.
This, of course, has nothing directly to do with the cost of health care, whether or not we’ll make more money at the end of the year or if we can even get employment next year.
Until it does.
When you strip us right down to the studs (Note: And these days, who’d NOT want to), the core attraction of America is our FIRST amendment. Theoretically everyone here has the same rights and can say whatever the hell they want under the law. Even if it doesn’t always work out perfectly, from the top on down we have always strived for that ideal. Or, at least, pretended to.
Now the president is proposing that football players get suspended for taking a knee during the National Anthem and fired if they do it more than once. This is a far more stringent punishment than any of the Nazis got who marched in Charlottesville last year and actually killed an innocent woman.
Which brings us back to Kathy Griffin.
The job of comedians is to make us laugh by being — provocateurs. They share their lens of the world by telling stories and jokes, pushing boundaries in the ways they see fit. It is their very point of view, mixed with some truth telling, that makes them unique and, in essence, defines their talent.
Last year, in response to Trump’s bull-in-the-china shop approach to tearing down the norms of government and insulting anyone who disagreed with him in a shockingly offensive manner by using coded graphic words and actions (and, behind-the-scenes, pornographic ones), Kathy decided to use her comic chops in a photo shoot that would shock us all to attention as to just what this man was doing not only to the country, but to the world.
So she had someone buy a $12 rubber Trump mask, doused it all over with ketchup, held it up as if it was his severed head, and then took a picture…which she then posted on social media.
I, for one, thought it was a hilarious, outrageous and very necessary political statement/response to the times we were and still are living in. In fact, I still do. So, in solidarity, here it is again:
But because Trump is technically our Electoral College POTUS and has a lot of power, as well as a large following (Note: Though not as large as Hillary’s) here is what she got in return for 6-12 months and counting:
1- Her name on the no-fly list
2- Her name on Interpol (an international criminal police organization)
3- Daily death threats
4- The cancellation of all of her bookings in the U.S., often because venues were afraid of bomb threats.
5- Daily character assassinations on Fox News and TMZ, both of whose owners are rabid Trump supporters.
6- Marginalization by all the major network powers-that-be, who were terrified of offending potential sponsors (nee corporate $$) and the new Trump power base.
7- An international P.R. campaign, spurred on by Fox, that convinced millions of conservative viewers that she had become an actual member of ISIS.
8 – A relentless social media Russian bot patrol attack.
9 – Investigation by the Secret Service, the FBI and others about her plotting to actually assassinate our Electoral College POTUS.
10 – A Trump supporting next-door neighbor who cursed at her and verbally harassed her so consistently that she eventually had to sell her house and move.
She explains it much more thoroughly and with a great deal more humor in her current LAUGH YOUR HEAD OFF (Note: Yeah, that’s right) tour.
In addition, there are also GREAT and unexpected stories about Ellen, Stevie Nicks, Kim Kardashian, Jim Carrey, Jamie Fox, Billy Bush and even Stormy Daniels if you’re as much of a star/media f-cker as I am.
But what stood out the most to me leaving the show is that political protest has swung back about a century here except for the use of technology and social media by the powers-that-be doing the oppressing.
When Roseanne sends out an offensive racist tweet comparing a non-white person not elected to office and no longer in the zeitgeist to an ape for no other reason than she felt like it, it is hard to see what she is satirizing other than herself with a bad one-liner.
Nevertheless, she is covered by the first amendment and is free to do so. Much in the same way the corporations that employ her are legally able to fire her.
The same applies to Kathy and those also choosing not to work with her.
The difference is – Roseanne was NOT put on the no-fly list, NOT listed on Interpol, NOT checked out by law enforcement officials for a crime, and NEVER victimized by Russian bots.
However, she WAS publicly supported and tweet cheered by THE ONE PERSON person who is still the de facto Leader of the Free World – our current sitting Electoral College POTUS. With all the power that HE is allowed.
Think about that the next time you sit down for dinner with Trump supporting friends and relatives or find yourself in an impromptu political discussion with those who say you’re being too sensitive, paranoid or reactionary.
But don’t laugh your head off quite yet. You will need it – and A LOT more – in the coming months. COMRADE.