America… Land of the Free and Home of the Absurd

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How does "absurdity" wake us up?

My wife and I were sitting at Chipotle this past Sunday afternoon, and she mentioned seeing Stephen Colbert on Meet the Press. Now, I’ve seen clips of his show, The Colbert Report, but we only have basic cable, so we don’t get Comedy Central (I know, it’s hard). BUT, we do have internet access, so I was able to check out the segment on Youtube.

Like most things absurd, it both makes you laugh and wakes you up. Take, for example, his new book: I am America (And So Can You!). The title first made me chuckle out loud, but underneath there is a subtle critique of our culture. He’s asking the question how we view America…do we view it as a government, a group of states, a corporation-dominated country? (Not to mention a host of other options.) In this critique we see the statement that America is a group of people, that maybe we shouldn’t view America as a “place” or “government” but people – simply a group of people, where our thoughts and ideas make up the country. I am America. Funny and thought-provoking.

In his Meet the Press interview, he rants on about wanting to run for President (but not wanting to win…which, incidentally, is another critique on the large numbers of candidates, many with no real chance of winning, who basically want to get their names out there so in four years they might be front-runners) but also points out other absurdities in the press and in politics. At one point, he eggs on Tim Russert to talk to a puppet, clearly hoping to not only provide humor, but show the bizarre things that the media sometimes does. (Unfortunately, Tim didn’t talk to the puppet.)

So, watch the clips and think about what he’s satirizing, let them help you see the political process in a new light. But, most of all, laugh. Colbert, who suffered from tragedy at an early age, said, “Not living in fear is a great gift. And do you know what I like about comedy? You can’t laugh and be afraid at the same time — of anything.”