Friends of Padre Steve’s World,
Next Tuesday is the South Carolina primary, and after all the hoopla in Iowa and New Hampshire I don’t know if I can stand the incessant political bombardment on the airwaves and the internet. As such I take a bit to get my fill so I know what is happening, and then retreat into my private world.
Sometimes that private world has some fascinating intersections with politics. I love the movies of Mel Brooks and find them hysterically funny. Call me crude, uncultured or anyhting else you want to call me I find Brooks to be one of the most brilliant writers to ever grace film. Despite some of the course language and frequent use of the double entendre employed I find that Brook’s films speak our current political climate in strikingly biting ways. Brooks had an amazing way of confronting ingrained prejudice, discrimination, racism, religious intolerance, and the massive economic, social, and political privileges enjoyed by the wealthy. What is amazing to me is that his movies have become classics and that four decades later they still are relevant to the political, social, economic issues that we face as well as the continued curse of racism.
Both Blazing Saddles and History of the World Part I came out in times of political and economic turmoil. Like now when these films came out people were disillusioned and cynical about their political leaders. The country was badly divided, racism was rampant while divisive social issues, a problem riddled military and economic malaise ruled the day. The Soviet Union seemed to be on the ascendant while some were writing the obituary of the United States and Western Europe. There are a lot of similarities.
In such difficult times most political leaders and their partisan followers are absolutely devoid of humor, as are most pundits and politically minded preachers. As a result everything becomes personal, and anyone that deviates from the party line is “the enemy.” This goes for partisans on both sides of the political chasm.
Unfortunately our problems are multifaceted in scope, and deeper than the Marianas Trench. Scandals have long been part and parcel of both the Legislative and Executive branches of our government. As a people we seem to hate the sinner involved but love the scandal itself. The scandals titillate us and satiate our most wanton desires for reality entertainment.
Our corporate 24 hour news cycle thrives on them and even the slightest odor of a potential scandal sends the media into a frenzy. But many of the scandals while troubling seldom amount to a hill of beans. Meanwhile implicated office holder or official is incessantly beaten by the opposing media and sometimes even “friendly” media long after grounds for the scandal are shown to be false. That being said there is a double standard because it is quite often that a truly guilt party gets off with no punishment, few are forced to resign from office, while even fewer ever end up in court for offenses that most of us would get jail time for doing.
More troubling from my point of view is the manner in which politicians at almost every level prostitute themselves in order to rake in political donations from big donors. This is a bi-partisan problem. Business, political action committees, and special interest groups of all varieties participate in getting in bed with those in power. I think one of the most egregious examples are the Koch brothers, but they are not alone. In the midst of the money driven depravity for power the actual needs of constituents or the greater good of the country are seldom address. God forbid a constituent show up at a town hall meeting and ask hard questions or state opposition to their representative’s position. Sometimes those who have the courage to do so are physically assaulted by the supporters of the politician, forcibly removed and sometimes arrested.
The average congressman spends a third or more his or her time in office raising money for the next election, some spend more than 50% of their time raiding campaign contributions. The thing is that money talks and if you look at any major legislation who will see a direct correlation of money to the votes of congress. Again, both parties are guilty of this and they do it every day. Is it a wonder that Congress has single digit approval ratings?
Is it any wonder that the President barely polls 40% approval? Is it any wonder that grass roots Tea Party members and the progressives that by and large make up the Occupy Wall Street movement are in the streets? True partisans on both sides deride the opposing movement but the fact that so many people are upset shows that our political system as we know it is broken and may not last.
Now I admit that was an awfully serious interlude. However, it sets the stage for the humor of Mel Brooks. Like I said in the beginning I love the humor of Mel Brooks. He is a comic genius and understands that humor is often more effective in making political and social commentary than almost any other means. Both Blazing Saddles and The History of the World Part One had wonderful if crude satire about politics and speak volumes about our political condition and how many people feel about their government. I am putting a few clips from both films here and let them do the talking with no commentary from me. Have fun and enjoy even as you cringe at how accurate Brooks’ commentary is today. You would think that he is a prophet.