I wrote a post a couple of years ago entitled “Everything isn’t racism.” Well, it still isn’t. However, people will find what they go looking for and apparently a lot of people go looking for racism everywhere. Even at a small rodeo in southern Alberta.
The town of Sundre recently held its annual rodeo and one of the floats (not officially approved) in the parade has caused quite a stir among the politically correct, eliciting a charge of racism. Even Calgary mayor Jyoti Gondek got in on the act.
The float has “Prime Minister Trudeau” driving a John Deere tractor pulling a manure spreader labelled “the Liberal” upon which sits “NDP leader Jagmeet Singh.” I am only guessing, but I suspect the charge of racism results from “Mr. Singh” wearing a beard and a turban.
And here’s the rub. If you are to portray the NDP leader, how do you present him? A clean-shaven man with a short haircut and a big sign around his neck saying “Jagmeet Singh”? Ridiculous, of course. You portray him wearing a beard and a turban because he wears a beard and a turban. They are his distinguishing features.
The float is not racist. It is satire. Satire: “the use of humour, irony, exaggeration, or ridicule to expose and criticize people’s stupidity or vices, particularly in the context of contemporary politics.”
The lady responsible for the float, Lynne Hoff, is not backing off. “I don’t think it was done in poor taste,” she said. “It was political satire.” She referenced the famous 1915 political cartoon “The Milch Cow” that depicted easterners raking in the rewards of hard working western Canadians. Good for her.
People often have trouble with satire, but in this case it was so obvious there’s no excuse for the educated not to recognize it. But, as I said in the beginning, people will find what they look for, regardless of what is there.
Personally, I thought the float was funny, in a country humour sort of way, and I’m a member of the NDP. Furthermore, I thought the confidence-and-supply agreement with the Liberals, obviously the subject of the satire, is an excellent way to get our governing done.
I am not, however, one of those NDP or Liberal supporters who believes the only appropriate target of satire is the Conservatives. This is an era of polarization and it cannot but help to reduce the polarizing if we are capable of taking a joke. Some people think NDPers are too serious, lacking in humour. It isn’t true.
So relax, folks. Give the good people of Sundre a break, and put away your pitchforks and torches until you encounter a real case of racism. It isn’t as easy to find as you might think; there isn’t a racist under every bed, but there are still lots around.