Sometimes comedy illuminates hard truths with a pointed urgency that other means can’t quite achieve. Sometimes comedy is just funny. This series of posts is mostly about the former instances, but the latter is valuable, too.
I lived in the Orlando metropolitan area for six years. While I was there, I worked for Rollins College, which was located around seven miles from Pulse, which has tragically become the most famous gay night club in the state of Florida. My chief responsibility there was General Manager and advisor to student-run radio station WPRK-FM. When I arrived, in 2001, one of the most notable programs on the air was a weekly talk show focused on the extremely strong gay community within the area (the show certainly spoke to a larger swath of the GLBT+ community, especially as time went on, but there was no mistaking that its central driving force was serving the first letter in the string). At the time, it was called, in a wonderful act of reclaiming terminology then used to ostracize gay individuals, Family Values. It was hardly the most dire of times back then, but it was still fairly bold to have such a show on the air. It was only a couple years earlier, for example, that the big theme park down the interstate had stopped operating in fearful squeamishness in the face of the annual “Gay Day” celebration within their gates. Though the part of me charged with protecting the station (and, therefore, the college) from the ire of the FCC got a little quivery when a guest slipped toward discussion that might have been a bit overly uninhibited for a show radiating through air warmed by the noonday sun, I was deeply proud of this inherited piece of the program schedule.
While my connection to Orlando’s gay community was limited to the role of distant ally, I was routinely wowed by their passionate authority and political astuteness. At a time when cudgels of hateful rhetoric were so woefully commonplace they could be considered mainstream and countless foes bereft of the most basic empathy made elaborate overtures to strip away basic rights, and the social conveyance of dignity they hold, those that asked little more than their emotional orientation (a term I pilfer from the previously mentioned Family Values) be respected were consistently brave, kind, and mutually supportive. Or, as the LGBT-themed news source Watermark put it in their powerful editorial response to the mass shooting, “Orlando’s LGBT community is organized, and generous, and mighty.”
The need of one particular political party, and its repugnant new standard-bearer, to reshape every possible story to opportunistically suit their narrative of constant global danger and religious bigotry is already obscuring the story. The perpetrator of the crime may have declared himself a member of a terrorist organization (with a suspicious level of eager neediness), but that doesn’t change the fact that he went to a gay bar. Orlando is a big city. There are a lot of places he could have exacted an equally terrible toll. This was a deliberate choice and the significance of it should not be erased, especially by craven politicians who seemingly do so because it is inconvenient for them to offer sympathy to the very community they’ve demonized in pursuit of greater power. As far as I’m concerned, unless Mike Huckabee, to use one of the more egregious examples, is prepared to simultaneously apologize for a political lifetime of blatant homophobia, his thoughts and prayers are unneeded and unwelcome. As the estimable Petty Sheehan, Orlando’s openly gay city commissioner said, on CBS This Morning, “Something that bothers me is: I’ve heard a lot of politicians talking that did not support hate crimes legislation, that have not supported my community. And if they want to have a change of heart, I encourage that, ’cause if this isn’t an example of how my community is victimized and hated and harmed — nothing will change their heart if this doesn’t.”
I’ve typed my piece about one aspect of this tragedy. For another, I’ll defer to Jim Jefferies. The following excerpt from one of his comedy routines has made the rounds before. And it will again. The full piece, split into two parts on his YouTube page, effectively demolishes most of the pro-gun arguments that will propagate like poisonous weeds across social media the next few days. Frankly, I’m tired of arguing about guns. At least for today, I’m relieved to let someone else do it for me.
Previous entries in this series can be found by clicking on the “Laughing Matters” tag.