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Thursday, September 14, 2023

Humor = Truth + Pain

The brilliant musical satirist Tom Lehrer was only half-joking in 1965 when he wrote these lines in "National Brotherhood Week":

Oh, the Protestants hate the Catholics/

And the Catholics hate the Protestants/

And the Hindus hate the Muslims/

And everybody hates the Jews.

Jewish himself, Lehrer's humor often relied on the comic device of combining truth and pain, while adding sufficient distance (or time) to blunt the sting. "National Brotherhood Week" is funny because listeners recognized the reality of pervasive antisemitism (and other bigotry in other verses), but were simultaneously able to dismiss it as something from another time or place. The same goes for the other caustic lyrics in the song. The audience could wince and laugh at the same time.

It turns out that there is still more truth to the lyrics than Lehrer probably realized. Former Democratic Congresswoman Cynthia McKinny recently endorsed former KKK Grand Wizard David Duke's to livestreamed conference titled, "Can Black People and White People Work Together to Defeat Our Common Enemy?"  The "enemy" was represented by a large Star of David. (Image after the jump.)

The conference was held on September 11, no doubt because both McKinney and Duke have enthusiastically spread the conspiracy theory that Israel was behind the 9/11 attacks on the Twin Towers. Antisemitism may be the only thing the two of them agree on.

If Lehrer were still writing songs (at age 95) he might be tempted to add another verse to describe the unexpected alliance between the African American former congresswoman and the notorious white supremacist.  But it wouldn't be funny. There would be truth and pain, but tragically, no distance.

The antisemitic image promoting the conference is after the jump.


Posted by Steve Lubet on September 14, 2023 at 04:42 AM | Permalink


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