State fairs are a great American institution. They’re wild, rural, and so hillbilly country that it may even be possible to find a rodeo clown donning a mask of the President of the United States. That is, until now.
Over the weekend, at the Missouri State Fair, a now-unemployed
rodeo clown entered the bull pit wearing a rubber Barack Obama
mask in an effort to stir up the crowd. But what seems to have
been a simple display of clownish behavior has festered into an
ugly debate on political correctness and, yes, racism.
But first, what exactly is a rodeo clown? Rodeo clowns, also
known as bullfighters, are skilled athletes employed to protect
riders who get tossed from bulls during rodeo competitions. In
other words, it’s incredibly dangerous work since most bulls have
one goal in their little minds, and that’s to gore the nearest
person with a slash of their horns.
Rodeo clowns, when not running for the lives of others, also provide an increasingly rare art form, known in less-stressed circles today as comic relief. And if there is any place on earth that needs some comic relief, it’s the United States.
So now this particular rodeo clown, who is trying to raise a
family by distracting agitated bulls, has lost his job for
mimicking Barack Obama at a state fair.
Admittedly, the bullfighter’s employment outlook took a kick in
the pants when the announcer asked the predominantly white crowd
if “anybody wanted to see Obama get run over by a
But it seems like a fair question since – surprise, surprise - it
really wasn’t President Obama behind the rubber mask (Apparently
such things need tediously explained in these days of virtual
reality). Furthermore, 99 percent of Americans recently got “run
over” in the parking lot of Obama’s too-big-to-fail-banker’s
ball. And who knows? Maybe the clown was more politically astute
than we give him credit for, and his skit was a reference to the
brass bull statue on Wall Street? In any event, in these days of
intense fear and loathing, is not the little guy entitled to
gently mock Caesar – regardless of his or her skin color –
without fear of being smacked down by the establishment with
unemployment? Apparently not.
Even the president of the Missouri Rodeo Cowboy Association, Mark Ficken, was compelled to hang up his spurs as the political outcry over the two-minute clowning act piled up higher than horse manure in Missouri, all but comparing the performance to a criminal act.
Here is Lacy Clay, Democrat from Missouri, who practically makes the rodeo incident look like a Klu Klux Klan rally: “I am amazed that in 2013, such hatred, intolerance and disrespect towards the President of the United States could take place at the Missouri State Fair. Our fair is supposed to showcase the best of Missouri. Instead, it showed an ugly face of intolerance and ignorance to the world.”
Incidentally, the above comment regarding the Klu Klux Klan is
not as far-fetched as one may think. The Daily Kos quoted one
spectator, Perry Beam, a self-proclaimed country boy, who said he
had never seen anything “so blatantly racist in his life,”
and that the scene was like “an effigy at a Klan rally.” Having
watched the video of the performance myself, I fail to see how
Mr. Beam could have arrived at such a dramatic conclusion.
Not to be outdone in the hyperbole competition was the NAACP, who actually called for the Secret Service to get involved: “The activities at the Missouri State Fair targeting and inciting violence against our President are serious and warrant a full review by both the Secret Service and the Justice Department,” railed Missouri State NAACP president Mary Ratliff. “Incidents involving individuals acting out with extreme violent behavior… speaks volume to the irresponsible behavior of all the parties involved with the incendiary events at the Missouri State Fair.”
And of course, the main motivation behind all of this burlesque behavior was pure, unadulterated racism.
“These racist demonstrations pose much larger questions about the state of racism in a country that has elected and reelected its first black president,” chirped Alex Wagner, a commentator with MSNBC. Wagner went on to quote an article in The Atlantic, which discussed “the fear of a black president, something that isn’t just present in the rodeo ring, but lives in the halls of Congress.”
Thus, any attempt by a Republican Congressman, for example, to
check the behavior of Washington will be condemned as yet another
incident of racism, as opposed to a sober reflection of the
For example, when Republican Senator Rand Paul filibustered for
nearly 13 hours in July in an effort to ensure that the United
States would never carry out drone attacks against Americans on
American soil, could his stance be viewed as “racist.”?
Yes, it could, but only by the most politically motivated
individuals. After all, on the watch of Barack Obama, drones
strikes against foreign targets have almost tripled, while
mountains of legislation that could potentially be used against
American citizens have all cleared the Democratic leader's desk.
What does the question of race have to do with protecting
Although there have certainly been racially motivated incidences
against Barack Obama in the past, it is dangerous to the spirit
of democracy to demand draconian measures against tolerant,
non-racist voters who simply wish to criticize – occasionally
through comical methods – the President of the United States.
After all, should every individual who has a beef with Washington
sound like a starched talking head from the mainstream media? Are
we going to start patrolling all state fair grounds for clowns
wearing rubber masks bearing the image of the almighty
Commander-in-Chief? Has the racial divide in the United States
become so wide that it precludes our natural right to criticize
the president (It should not be forgotten, incidentally, that
millions of white Americans support Obama’s policies, while an
equal number of black Americans do not)?
Fortunately, a number of US commentators have weighed in on the subject, injecting some sanity into the world’s great institution.
“Satirizing presidents has a long tradition in America,” Kurt Nimmo wrote in infowars.com. “From cartoons and caricatures early on to Chevy Chase and Dana Carvey more recently poking fun at Gerald Ford and George W. Bush, presidents, presidential candidates and the establishment political class at large has constituted fair game for newspaper editorialists, commentators, and comedians – until now.”
Peter Roff, commenting in US News & World Report, argued that the art of political satire, where it is acceptable to laugh at our imperfect leaders, has fallen by the wayside under Obama. “From Mark Twain to Will Rodgers, from Fred Allen to Mort Sahl, Johnny Carson and Jay Leno, humorists, clowns and comedians have made taking shots at politicians their bread and butter,” Roff writes. “Until Barack Obama, that is.”
This high level of political sensitivity from increasingly diversified camps in the United States is a worrisome trend, and may eventually prove not only the futility of democracy inside of multicultural societies, it may lead to the political irrelevancy of the Democrats and Republicans – unless they can muster the courage to not only laugh at themselves, but allow others to laugh at them as well. Laughter is nothing more than the freedom of expression, and should not be treated as anything more or less. It’s a national travesty that so many Americans need to be reminded of such a thing.
Robert Bridge for RT
Robert Bridge is the author of the book,
Midnight in the American Empire, which discusses the
dangerous consequences of runaway corporate power in the United
The statements, views and opinions expressed in this column are solely those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of RT.