A re-post of M. Thomas Inge’s piece, “Politics and the American Sense of Humor.” This piece marked our official launch into the world one year ago today.
M. THOMAS INGE
If incongruity is at the heart of humor and what makes people laugh, as some theorists have maintained, then nowhere is there a greater disparity between the ideal and the real, between the dream and our failure to achieve it, than in American politics.
The democratic system posits higher values than we can live up to—not only life and liberty, but the pursuit of happiness for heaven’s sake! Not to mention equality, justice, and freedom of speech. And then there are the politicians entrusted with achieving them. We still laugh, unfortunately, at Mark Twain’s quip, “There is no distinctly American criminal class except Congress.”
A gauge of the success of our system is our willingness to make fun of ourselves and celebrate our failures with the horse laugh. We hold nothing above ridicule—the law, government, religion, or the President—and we seek redress through satire.
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