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The art of satire is alive and well

POSTED December 14, 2010 9:15 p.m.

I have created a new award in honor of comedian Jon Stewart — the Swiftee. This coveted honor goes to the person who most personifies the king of satire, Jonathon Swift. Stewart and “The Daily Show” writers were channeling the renowned Anglo-Irish essayist when they shined a light during their Monday night Comedy Central program on the U.S. Senate Republicans and their hypocritical nonsupport of health aid to 9-11 first responders.

While others railed against the Republicans and their twisted political strategy, no other form of outrage cut deeper than Stewart’s work of satire. When “The Daily Show” aired a montage of footage of Senate Republicans using the tragedy of 9-11 to support a variety of other bills, then  showed those very same Republicans voting “nay” on the James Zadroga 9/11 Health and Compensation Act, my skin crawled.

I can’t imagine being one of those senators and then having to face my constituents and the American public. It truly proves that most politicians’ moral compasses point to the nearest bandwagon of party rubbish.

This is why satire is a vital tool in keeping democracy alive. No one form of communication has quite the same affect. Swift knew this in the 1700s:

 “I have been assured by a very knowing American of my acquaintance in London, that a young healthy child well nursed is at a year old a most delicious, nourishing, and wholesome food, whether stewed, roasted, baked, or boiled; and I make no doubt that it will equally serve in a fricassee or a ragout.”

For those, like me, who really began to love literature after reading Swift know that the above quote is from “A Modest Proposal.”  In the 1729 essay, Swift lays out his plan for preventing the poor children in Ireland from being a burden to their parents and the public. Swift did not really think Irish parents should start raising children for slaughter; he was making a political point.

Although I dislike his use of an “American” knowing the secret of tasty toddlers, his essay has an impact on readers that few works ever do. There is no way you can read this essay without thinking and feeling. This is satire at its best.

As a student at California State University, Stanislaus, I was taught that satire is not a positive form of communication. It is often perceived as demeaning and can create misunderstandings among people with different cultural backgrounds.

I fully understand this, but I can’t help but think that a quality piece of satire is like a shot of whiskey to your sensibilities. It wakes you up and makes you take stock of what is going on.

I applaud Stewart and “The Daily Show” writers for proving that there is still a need for satire in today’s society. And I look forward to honoring more and more artists for their Swift work of today’s politicians.

To contact Kristina Hacker, e-mail khacker@turlockjournal.com or call 634-9141 ext. 2004.

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