So Al Franken finally paid a $25,000 fine—one that he ignored for more than a year--for failing to carry worker’s compensation insurance for his employees. Why should he have to pay? Plenty of people don’t.
While I was growing up, my father ran a small business of which he was very proud. He would always rail against his competitors, most of whom didn’t run their businesses on the up-and-up. “They don’t pay workers comp, they don’t pay payroll taxes, it’s all under the table!” he would rant. I used to wonder, well, if everyone else isn’t doing it, and no one is bothering them about it, then why are you paying? If you stopped paying all of those silly fees, wouldn’t you be able to buy me more clothes? Gosh!
Just joking. Well, not exactly joking, because I’m not really a comedienne. You could say I’m more of a ... satirist. Many of my published works would most certainly be considered satire, so I guess the label fits.
It’s the label Al Frankenhides behind. When I think about it, this new title could come in really handy for me as well. I have always tried to be an upstanding, law abiding citizen, but who knows when one might need an “out” when she gets into a little trouble. “But officer, I wasn’t really speeding. I was just demonstrating for my son, in a rather droll manner, the driving habits of certain people in our culture whom I don’t respect. You can’t give me a ticket. I’m a satirist.”
How liberating! I could do anything and expect to get away with it! I could play by different rules and be held to a different standard than everyone else!
I could, at will, discount all of the other things I am, such as wife, mother, writer, friend, neighbor, daughter, sister, pet owner, aunt, grandmother. When in trouble, I could throw all of these titles away and hide behind Franken's favorite word: satirist, just as Franken often uses it to replace what should be his most important title: Senatorial Candidate.
If anyone were to bring up any illegal, distasteful, racially insensitive, boorish, frightening behavior, I could just say (and just for fun, in a degrading, stereotypical parody of an Asian accent) that they were trying to avoid talking about real issues, like how our roads have too many pot holes. But that argument would be hollow because my detractors, by pointing out how they dislike my behavior, would in effect be saying, “Your satire helps show us who you really are, and we don’t much like or trust that person.”
Let’s have a small civics lesson for those who still don’t get it. Parody and satire are protected forms of speech in the United States. You have the right to use them to say anything you want and be protected from libel and slander suits under the umbrella of this Constitutional right.What this right does not do is to stop people from being offended by the content of an individual’s protected form of speech. The reader or listener can find it distasteful, racist, reckless, and find it to be a true window into the personality of the person saying or writing it. It does not protect the satirist from public opinion, and negative public opinion can be a pesky little problem for a political candidate.
Because I'm a satirist, why aren’t I running willy nilly through the countryside doing and saying things without regard for anyone but myself? Because I am my father’s daughter. I have pride, integrity and a backbone. I try to do the right thing in the first place, not just after I get caught doing something wrong. But I’m not running for office...
Al Franken is.