Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Fighting Idiocy With Humor?

In an effort to point out the patent absurdity of those who oppose same-sex marriage rights, a New Hampshire state representative has sponsored an amendment that would forbid left-handed people from marrying.

I literally laughed out loud when I saw this, but… is it too elitist and condescending of me to worry that these sorts of reductio ad absurdum acts of protest legislation will be lost on their target audience?

“I’m using humor to make a point,” the Concord Patch website quotes Canterbury Rep. Seth Cohn (a “liberty-minded Republican with a wry sense of humor”) as saying. “And when I get up there, believe me, there will be a point made. I’m trying to sway people’s opinions and using humor is one way to do it.”

Maybe so, but I fear that efforts like this, or the mandatory rectal prostate exam amendments that some have proposed as a flippant counterpart to the mandatory trans-vaginal ultrasound provisions abortion opponents have promoted in Virginia and elsewhere, will be lost on the sort of people who could propose the laws being protested with a straight face in the first place. Even though these proposals look like a biting satirical response to some of us, to how many others will they seem just silly… or, worse yet, a facile trivialization of an important issue?

Make no mistake: The underlying principle that unites all these fights over gay rights, contraception, abortion, and (if Rick Santorum gets his way) pornography — the right to personal sexual autonomy — is a matter of vital concern. I wish I thought we lived in a political culture in which it’s safe to joke about this topic; I’m worried that we do not.

[UPDATE: I should clarify that I don't mean to be dissing humor and satire, per se, as political tools; I only worry that this particular sort of satirical stunt can sometimes be counterproductive.]

1 comment:

Bill Dauphin said...

The very good news is that the object of this particular protest -- the attempt to repeal marriage equality in New Hampshire -- has been defeated: