By Jack Engelhard
I don’t get to New York that often so I never caught Will Ferrell’s Broadway show on George W. Bush – an hour or so of “comedy.” But the one-man extravaganza – a big hit during its Broadway run – was given time on HBO and I was urged to watch it, which I did, for about 10 minutes. That was enough.
It wasn’t even funny, except that it lampooned Bush and that seems to delight so many of us.
I speak not as a Republican, nor as a Democrat, but rather as someone who knows the difference between humor and bullying. We all know about bullying in the schoolyard and that’s what this was, especially with the audience joining in with cheers and jeers. I know what it’s like when a mob sets itself upon a particular individual and begins to chase this individual with curses, taunts, derision and laughter. I call this mobism.
I know all about mobism. I know the hoots, the toots and the whistles – and I even know what results once such a mob gets out of hand.
I remember one time in summer camp a certain girl had epilepsy and this drew no sympathy from her fellow campers – but rather, mockery.
Mockery is not funny, not humorous; it is ugliness. What is it about us – us humans – that brings out this ugliness?
I watch Jay Leno now and then because I like his monologue but it’s time to switch when he gets on Bush and especially when the audience turns into a mob and contributes its derision of Bush. That isn’t laughter; it is mockery. There is no humor, either, when Bill Maher goes after Gov. Sarah Palin accompanied by the snickers, taunts and chants from an audience turned mob. That is not humor. That is scoffing. That is ganging up on a person and we all know about gangs.
I find all this to be repulsively un-American, by which I mean that we seem to have inherited a vestige of European bestiality. Over there, in Europe, they knew how to bully. They knew how to escort people into cattle cars while prodding them along with sticks, snickers, laughter, giggling and whistling.
We don’t do that here but some of us seem to delight in the sport of mockery. We enjoy kicking a man while he’s down – or a woman. We laugh, we cheer when that man or woman is being disgraced. Listen to the sounds, the sounds of hilarity. “Get him!” says the mob. “Get him!”
That’s mobism. That’s what I hear, that’s what I see is this eruption, this never-ending ridicule of George W. Bush.
All that is supposed to end in the schoolyard and as every parent knows, bullying shouldn’t even begin in the schoolyard. But there it is. It’s human nature. Kids bully. Adults? We can’t seem to grow ourselves up and out of this habit. Maybe we come from apes after all – and not that far. Animal Planet shows us what happens when a particular member of a species gets picked on. Cruelty happens. Members of the tribe, all the members, take turns tantalizing the cast-out.
Any man who isn’t a bully himself must have experienced some bullying in his lifetime. This man – or woman – should know better than to laugh when someone, anyone, is singled out for derision. We’ve all had this happen – schoolyard, workplace, neighborhood, and some, even at home.
So this is not about George W. Bush. This is about us. We should know better and we should be better.
We should be careful upon what we find so funny because the next joke – the next mob – can be on us.
Novelist Jack Engelhard is the author of “Indecent Proposal” and “The Bathsheba Deadline.” His latest novel, “The Girls of Cincinnati,” is available exclusively on Amazon. He can be reached at www.jackengelhard.com