A site of satirical musings, commentary and/or rhetorical criticism of the world at large.

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Wednesday, March 04, 2009

The Message of the Monkey

Recently, a story about a pet monkey shot to death by authorities made headlines across the country. What can I say; it must have been a slow news week. Honestly, Britney and Lindsay must have been on vacation.

The story came out of Stamford CT, where a woman’s pet chimp attacked a neighbor. It would have died a quick death even if Britney and Lindsay had been spotted somewhere. However, a cartoonist for The New York Post used the image of the dead monkey to comment on President Obama’s economic stimulus package. The cartoon showed two police officers standing near the chimp’s body and one of them says, “Now they’ll have to get someone else to write the stimulus bill.”

Hilarity ensued! Then Rev. Al Sharpton read the comic and linked the monkey image as a historic racist tool to President Obama. Outrage erupted!

I have mixed feelings about this whole controversy. It has gotten more press than the Danish cartoonist depiction, I won’t go there. I’m against bigotry, prejudice and racism. I’m even a member of the Southern Poverty Law Center. On the other hand, I can’t say I’ve been very distraught over the idea that this protest has caused some anxious moments for the Post's publisher (and Fox Network founder) Rupert Murdoch.

At the risk of being labeled as another white guy who “doesn’t get it”, I must admit that I don’t see the connection between the image of the dead monkey and Barack Obama. If the cartoonist wanted the deceased simian to denote the President, then they could have just inserted the name Obama somewhere on the monkey’s body. This is how it would have been handled traditionally in the comics. However, this wasn’t done here and Sharpton’s contention that it was a reference to Obama is a bit of a stretch even with this cartooning device missing.

First, we should acknowledge that the stimulus bill was not the work of one person, even though Obama will get the credit for promoting it. The actual writing of the 1,000 plus page document was probably done by Democratic leaders (Pelosi, Reid, etc); their aides; other top Democratic lawmakers and their aides; and maybe a Republican or two, even though they’ve gone on record as being shut out of the process. President Obama probably had some input, but he’s been very busy during his first thirty days in office.

For example, he’s been reaching out to the other side of the aisle in the spirit of bipartisanship. He is also busy putting his administration's team together. This entails nominating prospective candidates to his cabinet and then making sure they’ve paid all of their back taxes.

Given all this, when did Obama have time to write a stimulus bill all by himself?

Since the controversy broke and the picket signs went up, Murdoch himself apologized to anyone who was offended by the cartoon. The New York Post declined to punish the cartoonist, which prompted the NAACP to reject Murdoch’s apology. This venerable organization did not feel his words of contrition were good enough. I don’t know, but I guess they were hoping that the cartoonist would be subject to lethal injection...

The Obama Administration has taken the high road about all this and has, to my knowledge, not offered any comment about the cartoon. Good for them! The President is truly a class act!

The cartoonist has said that he was commenting more on the “flawed” stimulus bill than any one person. I can see this point of view, given the right wing media’s attitude about the Democrats efforts to jump start the economy. Yet the controversy swelled up at an odd time.

It happened in the closing days of Black History Month, and only a few weeks after Attorney General Eric Holder’s comments about Americans being cowards when it comes to a dialogue on race relations. This controversy should answer Holder's challenge. Here is a good example of why people are afraid to talk about race! Well-meaning people are too quick to jump at the slightest provocation and seek to destroy the messenger.

Meanwhile, hate groups like the Ku Klux Klan are allowed to thrive. I don’t get it. Yes, I’m still torn about this entire episode. Half of me wants to thank Rev. Sharpton for making The New York Post uncomfortable. My other half wishes Sharpton would get a life.


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