March 27, 2018

Oliver vs. Pence—Why I won’t be buying John Oliver’s “Controversial” Book.

Let me get this out of the way.

I’m a southern Democrat, liberal arts major, nonprofit do-gooder, refugee camp volunteer, and gun control and women’s rights protester. Yeah, my heart bleeds big time.

Like many left of center, I find relief in the humor of late night show hosts, chuckling at the jabs at the current administration and what masquerades as leadership in our country. John Oliver’s “Last Week Tonight,” is smart, manically funny, and takes no prisoners in the targets of its biting humor.

I usually find myself nodding at his exasperated, at times histrionic reactions to the insanity in the world, whether it’s gun control, LGBTQ rights, Vladimir Putin, or environmental degradation.

But sometimes, every so often, I am noticing myself cringing inwardly, in the same ways I wince at the snarky, biting sarcasm, and self-righteous mocking of Bill Maher, Chuck Schumer, and Samantha Bee. These liberal icons and their rhetoric often make me nod and chuckle, but more and more I find myself feeling uneasy and a little disturbed.

And in the case of John Oliver’s latest “project”—mocking the children’s book by Mike Pence’s wife and daughter—I felt downright nauseous.

For those who haven’t read the headlines, Oliver takes to task Mike Pence’s intolerance for gay rights, citing his associations with Focus on the Family, support for gay conversion therapy, and anti-gay policies while governor of Indiana.

Oliver targets his derision at a children’s book written by Charlotte Pence Marlon Bundo’s A Day in the Life of the Vice President. The book tells a story about the family rabbit, who follows Daddy Pence around as he’s doing his job as Vice President.

Look, Pence is an easy target, a walking cliché of hypocrisy and antediluvian opinions on equality, tolerance, and basic human rights. His views and positions are an anachronism that I predict in 10 years, we’ll be saying, “Mike who?”

Anyway, man, Oliver’s guns come out ablazing at this book. Oliver mocks, sneers, ridicules, going so far as to write his own book, Last Week Tonight with John Oliver Presents a Day in the Life of Marlon Bundo about a gay rabbit. He said, “Let’s take my book to number one as a way to stick it to Pence.”

After watching the show, I admit I went to Amazon to order the book. But before clicking “add to cart,” I noticed my stomach tightening and I had that sick feeling.

Like the kid on the playground who laughed at a joke being played on a kid I don’t like—it was funny because I don’t really like the kid, but I felt really sh*tty afterward. My “good guy” won because his joke was funny and smart and made the “bad guy” look foolish—but did anybody really “win?”

My point here is not to debate politics but to speak to the way in which our leaders—and I use that term to refer to those with megaphones, platforms that ripple out to the population, which include our politicians, business executives, celebrities, journalists—are all keeping us stuck in this antiquated story of waging battle, keeping score, winning a point at the expense of someone else.

It’s like we’re playing this ping-pong game, flinging zingers back and forth, dreaming of the day when “our side” is in power to right the wrongs imagined being perpetrated by the enemies.

Can we stop the table tennis madness? Can we stop hurling these attacks designed to go right to the jugular, and then call ourselves peaceful? The hypocrisy stares us in the face: meditating in the morning, preaching about love and tolerance at midday, and engaging in mental warfare in the afternoon.

Look, I’m as guilty and hypocritical as the next—and, I cringe at the idea of this being the playground that my children inherit.

I’m reading the brilliant words of Charles Eisenstein in The More Beautiful World Our Hearts Know is Possible. He speaks of our lives and the future of our species depending on letting the “old story” die, the cultural norms that are based on a playing field where one person’s gain must come at the expense of the other.

It’s the scarcity paradigm writ large. We have to do better.

P.S. Charlotte Pence apparently bought Oliver’s book, because she supports the charities benefiting from the proceeds. Score? Pence…15-Love.




Author: Angela Atkinson
Image: YouTube
Editor: Sara Kärpänen
Copy editor: Travis May

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