Tuesday, August 31, 2010

When Complaints Go Marching In

This probably won't win me many friends on the cocktail party circuit, but Harry Shearer needs to kind of shut the hell up. The voice of Mr. Burns, Ned Flanders and a host of other characters on The Simpsons -- as well as a regular member of Christopher Guest's merry band of mockumentary lunatics -- is one of the funniest and cleverest guys around. Or at least he was until he found a cause.

For the past couple of years, Shearer's chosen to trade in his sense of humor in the name of becoming professionally sullen and pissy about the injustices he sees all around him. (The proper name for this is to Garofalo.) What he sees around him, being that New Orleans is his adopted home, is unmitigated failure in the time leading up to and in the wake of Hurricane Katrina. I'm obviously not going to diminish or make light of the human catastrophe that was Katrina; from almost every possible perspective -- personal, political, cultural -- what happened to the Gulf Coast in 2005, and what was in some ways compounded by the recent BP oil spill, was a criminal disaster of biblical scope. I also have no problem with New Orleans being Harry Shearer's pet project; it only makes sense given that he spends most of his time there and has a real love for the place. While I admit that it outraged me to watch the city essentially drown on national television while our government sat with its thumbs up its feckless ass, I didn't have the kind of personal connection to what I was witnessing that someone who called New Orleans home would have.

No, what I take issue with is Shearer -- by any standard a whip-smart guy -- jumping on the already crowded "You've Failed Us!" bandwagon currently dragging Barack Obama's corpse around the left-wing blogosphere like Hector being dragged around Troy. His new post over at HuffPo, entitled President Obama Speaks To New Orleans from Planet Zarg, is the latest in a series of jabs he's taken at the president -- but this one is particularly egregious because Shearer's argument seems to be that Obama didn't spend the predetermined but entirely arbitrary amount of time in New Orleans over the weekend necessary to properly mark the fifth anniversary of Katrina and that he didn't say the right thing while he was there. It's one thing to shout that you're disappointed in Barack Obama because, say, unemployment remains sky-high or we're still M4 muzzle-deep in Afghanistan; but to claim that he's out-of-touch because he gives a commemorative speech full of the kind of bromides you'd expect to hear in a commemorative speech, then rushes off to go try to take care of every other goddamn problem we're facing right now -- that's just asinine.

I've voiced my irritation about this kind of thing before so it's not really worth repeating at length, but suffice it to say these days I actually read far fewer left-slanted political op-ed pieces than I do those from the right. That's because it boils my blood a hell of a lot less to hear Obama's occasionally psychotic sworn enemies rake him over the coals than it does those who claim to share his general ideals -- the whining brats who can't tell the difference between demanding "smart accountability" and constantly complaining that because they didn't walk outside their front doors the morning after his inauguration to find that marijuana and gay marriage were mandatory, we'd abolished the military and built a giant cruelty-free food co-op at Ground Zero, Obama had somehow let them down.

I'm glad Harry Shearer is passionate about what's happened and continues to happen to New Orleans -- and he has every right in the world to voice his opinion and make oodles of what I'm sure are damn fine and entirely infuriating documentaries on the subject.

I just wish he'd be a little more realistic about what the President of the United States is dealing with right now. Katrina was an epochal tragedy -- but it's not the only tragedy on Obama's plate these days.

(Sketch by the incredibly talented Chris Wahl)


Bill Orvis White said...

Chez, this is one of those times I'll agree with you. I heard about this Shearer guy doing this drivel about NOLA and yes, this dumb Godless Hollyweird Socialist needs to shut up. I was at NOLA fixing a lot of sewer and plumbing things in '05. I was knee-deep in human excrement patching the town up. This Shearer fella doesn't know a thing.

Chez said...

Terrific. I know I fucked up when "Bill White" is on my side.

Anonymous said...

I so agree about losing your funny. Shearer, "to Garofalo" (excellent one!), Senator Franken, Dennis Miller, the never terribly funny Victoria Jackson, others. Please just shut up and go back to being funny. One can express an opinion without turning into a total buzzkill!

toastie said...

Waiting for Bush's statement on the 5th anniversary of Katrina. I'm all for looking forward and not focusing on past blame, but there is an election in a few months. Bush's party is about to regain some power. Not the best time to blame Obama for a catastrophe where his share of the blame is so small.

Heather said...

"... dragging Barack Obama's corpse around the left-wing blogosphere like Hector being dragged around Troy."

An excellent metaphor. Well done. And you are right on with this piece as well. It is frustrating to watch people whine about the small things when there are so many much bigger things happening in the world these days.

motheralex said...

As my chef always said, "Shut the Fuck up and clean this up, NOW". Then he'd go to get his picture taken. I think Obama has had some freshman mistakes, but I'm astounded at the idiots, who are basically covering their own asses, decrying his actions. Um, kids? HE CAN'T MAKE ANY SOLO ACTIONS, beyond picking up the dog poop in the Rose Garden.
I rode into town on the Pont Bridge, saw a door, spray painted "two bodies dog upstairs", and burst into tears. I'm not ashamed of it, it was simply a wasteland. However, we got other fish to fry here, let's let the Big Dude get to work.

BenoƮt from Ottawa said...

I go with Heather much more than with Anon. @ 11:13.

You're allowed to be serious (god knows this ain't the first time); in addition, that Bill Orvis backhandedly agrees with you is no cause for shame.

Very few in your country speak neutrally, these days. Congrats on not being all emotional: dispassionately made points count all the more, in my books.

VirginiaO'Possum said...

It's not so much Shearer alone as the whole phenomenon, which, on the political level, I find so counter-productive and frustrating and dumb. Give the Prez a chance; Bush left a mess that will take a lot more than 2 years to clean up. I am impressed by the Bush administration's accidental genius of leaving office with so many national infrastructure problems and a war to eat up all the money, and a recession to dry up all future money. I am afraid Cheney, Rove, and Co. actually engineered this perfect shitstorm to permanently cripple and discredit whatever progressive/Democrat sentiment came after them. So I think it remains important for people to resist the urge to yell at Obama for not fixing everything on Day One.

And yet every time I get an e-mail from Obama or the Democrats asking for money, I think: You dumbells! Stop asking me for money until I can find a fricking job, which you were supposed to be doing something about. But I take my frustration out on snarky replies that go straight to the un-attended reply-to mailbox, where they belong.

eliza said...

Sorry Chez, I think you're a little off the mark here. While I understand and partially agree with your overall point regarding liberal whining, I'm not sure Shearer is the one you should be unloading on.

He's not jumping on a bandwagon by any means. Shearer has been vocal about the levee failure since the very beginning. Obama "not saying the right thing" becomes important when the thing he is not saying is the fact that New Orleans would not have flooded if it weren't for the biggest engineering failure in this country's history. Kind of a big point, don't you think?

I don't know Harry. I'm not hugely familiar with his work and I actually think he is at times pretty unfair when it comes to criticizing the media on their New Orlean's coverage, but I do support him in his effort to educate the public on why New Orleans flooded (and note that his organization focuses on levees all over the country). Our country's infrastructure is a big fucking issue--especially if your home is a levee away from flooding.

FYI, Shearer is passionate enough on this issue to take on any critic who crosses his path (I've had a back-and-forth with him on at least one occasion), so...I look forward to his arrival in this comments section. ;)

Anonymous said...

Blaming the Army Corp of Engineers for the levee system failure is complete and utter bullshit. As engineers, we can scream and warn about a disaster waiting to happen and its for naught unless the local, state, and federal governments are willing to listen and invest the time and money to fix it. This is no different than the I-35 bridge collapse. We can't wave a magic wand and fix things. And if you think that no one had foreseen the levee failure, your willfully being ignorant. The Army Corp of Engineers were begging...literally begging for decades to fix the levee system.

When the flood control system in California fails and the interior (including massive amounts of farmland) are completely destroyed by flooding...no one is allowed to act surprised or ask why this happened.

I am seriously amazed that at one time, this country went to the moon considering how now, Americans seem to pride themselves in their ignorance of science and engineering.

Ref said...

Anon 11:13, how the Hell does Franken make your list? he actually remains quite funny in the right contexts, but the man is a US Senator now. He's got serious business to deal with.

namron said...

Obama will be re-elected handily. I will vote for him, and I am left of the 1970 version of Angela Davis ( I want her hair!) I will forever be dissapointed that he did not prosecute the architechts and enablers of the Iraq War. When I arrive in Hell and find them there with me, then I will belive in justice

Jules said...

Having grown up in France and seeing it go to shit economically and socially thanks to demagogic socialism starting with Mitterrand " change " back in 1981 . I can assure you that Mr obbie is a snake oil salesman who will truly screw the USA , socially and economically. You are going the same way as France with overregulation , tax the " rich" and so called free health are. expect long term unployement , and people becoming more andore passive while the state pretends it can solve the problems it induced by some " jobs program" or other BS. Have fun with that .