What we are being presented with presently from Trump, Sanders, Hillary and Rubio/Cruz is playing out with such circus-like aplomb, arguably we don’t need very much more then reviewing daily facts to get a laugh. But for sure, political parody in the U.S. has been alive and well since the inception of our government and is indeed one of the most important forms of expression and examination we have. The all-too jarring examples of citizen’s rights (or worse) trampled in places where political satire and discourse, cartoons even, can be legislated against, reiterates the fact that though things might be sometimes nutty here, at the very least we can bite back.
In the U.S. caricature in particular seems to have been the earliest expression of political parody. Though Ben Franklin’s “Join or Die” severed snake is commonly acknowledged as America’s first cartoon-and a purely political one at that-visual satire rose with Thomas Nast’s cartoons in “Harpers Weekly,” then beyond him with Joseph Keppler’s “Puck” magazine (even the ‘kids’ magazine MAD gets into the political parody game often.) These days we see scathing political cartoons in magazines and newspapers across the country, as well satirists writing blogs and T.V. personalities like a Bill Maher or a Steven Colbert making a living playing to obviously ideologically sympathetic audiences with their nightly jabs at the political machine.
But not all is well with political parody and mocking beyond the U.S. There’s a long list (added to daily it seems) of men and women in just this past decade alone who have suffered consequences over the political parody they have attempted:
- In China blogger Fang Hong was imprisoned (later released and awarded over nine thousand dollars) when he mocked a Communist party boss and his police chief in …a 2 line poem.
- In Egypt, television host Bassem Youssef, skewered President President Mohamed Morsi so often in his show’s sketches, prosecutors began a criminal investigation against him.
- And in United Arab Emirates, U.S. citizen Shezanne Cassim, was jailed and fined after posting a video parody supposedly “defaming the UAE’s image abroad,” UAE English-language newspaper The National, claims.
Even with our seemingly lock-jammed 2-party political system and a host of wacky candidates, the U.S. is still the only place one can indeed practice what is indeed granted us in our Bill of Rights…the freedom to express political parody.
And we’re stronger for it.