At the corespondents dinner the other night Wanda Sykes took on Rush Limbaugh in her comedy routine. She said, facing President Obama, “You know, you might want to look into this, [President Obama], because I think maybe Rush Limbaugh was the 20th hijacker, but he was just so strung out on OxyContin he missed his flight. ...”
The President gave a polite smile and did not laugh. Half the room laughed and half the room groaned. It was a low, cheap joke and people knew it. Rush will rant about it today because he’s pretty thin skinned about people making fun of him.
Anyone who knows me, even in the least, knows that I do not like Rush Limbaugh. I find him petty, mean, and dishonest. Much of what he shares as ‘fact’ is very much opinion and he has found that if you repeat a lie over and over again, people believe it. His level of cruelty towards others is often limitless and the kind of joke Wanda Sykes leveled at him is one he is very capable of leveling at someone else.
This, to me, is the very reason her joke was offensive.
His hope that Barack Obama fails is well documented. For a person to publically pronounce that they hope that the President of the United States fails when the nation is in such a difficult climate is repulsive. He said that many people hoped that George W. Bush would fail in Iraq. My sense was that many people believed that he would fail (which is different from hoping) but I never really heard someone say that they hoped he would fail. I can’t imagine people wanting to see our soldiers killed to see a President fail. Limbaugh’s comments, stand by themselves, and they were repulsive.
The biggest problem with Rush Limbaugh is not anything specific he has said. The list of offensive things he has said towards people who differ from him is rather extensive. These specifics are specifically offensive to lots of people, but in their accumulation they speak to something greater. He has helped lower the level of discourse in this nation.
Instead of people having civil discourse in discussing differences of opinion, they now have found it right to just verbally abuse each other. Rush Limbaugh has the highest rated radio show and he does it. If he does it and has made millions doing it, than everyone should do it.
Frankly, I’ve done it towards Rush Limbaugh. I figure if he can dish it out, people can dish it right back. Sarcasm is, to me, often funny and when there is a target like Limbaugh, my sarcasm tend to run wild. I'm finding something wrong in how I have approached this, however. I have become that which I do not admire.
When I first read what Wanda Sykes said, I laughed. The more I have thought about it, however, the more troubled I am by it. We have allowed ourselves to be pulled into the mud pit as a society. Difference is a dish best served with cruelty and derision. Or so it would seem. Rush has taught us this and has made a great deal of money doing so. Others are now following his lead.
But the more I reflect on this, the more I am coming to the conclusion that we, as a society, need to extract ourselves from the mud pit and learn civility.
Wanda Sykes is a funny person but I think she went to far. It’s not that Rush, personally, didn’t deserve it, but as a society we need to deserve better, we need to expect better. We cannot allow ourselves to continue to wallow in the mud of cruelty and derision. We need to learn that difference is a dish best served with dignity and respect.