Over the last few months I’ve used satire to mock the Trump administration’s response to the global pandemic. When George Floyd was murdered by local police officers here in my hometown of Minneapolis I put my blog on pause. I saw no humor in the heartbreak. Some memes in my feed felt like they were in poor taste and a lot of satire seemed insensitive.
The Onion took a few swings at the inhumanity of the Minneapolis PD. They posted a cropped photo of Derek Chauvin kneeling with the headline, “Minneapolis Police Now Requiring Officers To Undergo Ergonomics Training To Better Protect Knees.” I get the writer’s intention, but that joke didn’t work for me, not when I knew George Floyd was being asphyxiated just out of frame.
I’m not usually someone who says it’s too soon to joke about a tragedy, but satire in the heat of the moment doesn’t get the luxury of being opaque. It needs to be clear, cleaver, and speak truth to power. No matter how well your intentions you will be taking an incredible risk and you will have to own it. No matter how explicit your joke structure is there will be people who won’t get it. To this day there are still people who think Jonathan Swift wanted to eat Irish babies when he wrote “A Modest Proposal.”
You need to be a Jordan Peele level social commentator and frankly I am not.
I have mixed feelings about the local lootings. I’m still learning I have a lot to learn. There’s so much I don’t know about black-white inequality, about effective activism, and police reform. I don’t want to be the asshole who etches his fluid opinions into stone. So I won’t.
Those are areas where I need to educate myself. I need to listen to the signal without clogging it with noise.
In all likelihood my satire will continue to go after easy targets like the President. Trump gassed protesters so he could use the bible as a prop for an American Gothic photo op. Of course I’m going to mock that. Trump is lifting the free speech protections of social media companies under the guise of free speech. Of course I’m going to mock that. Trump thinks the solution to police violence is military domination over demonstrators. The jokes write themselves.
If now’s not the time. Let me know. If I go too far. Tell me. I won’t give you a line item veto for every joke I tell, but I’ll listen. We’re all processing this injustice in our own way, but we are in this together, here in Minneapolis, and throughout the rest of the world. Keep fighting the good fight and know that I love you all.