Monday, September 14, 2009

Kanye West is Music's Joe Wilson

Last night, Kanye West marched on stage at the MTV Music Awards and took the microphone out of the hand of a stunned Taylor Swift to argue that Beyonce Knowles, not Swift, should have won the award for best video.

As easy as it would be to limit this basket-case act to the unique blend of narcissism for which Kanye has become legion, it is emblematic of a growing American problem - disrespectful and ill-time expression of disagreement.

As we all know, Representative Joe Wilson called our president a liar during the State of the Union speech. In 2005, Democrats booed George Bush during his State of the Union. Deplorable all around.

I am not talking about limiting debate. Kanye, Wilson, and the 2005 House Dems who booed certainly could have found a microphone to state their views. But nobody gets license to step on every stage to do it.

I started thinking, "How did we get so polarized? How did we get so nasty?" So I am watching football yesterday, and I'm listening to 60,000 people boo the opposing team. People, what are we teaching our children? To think poorly of somebody who might be exceptional in his field and who might give untold hours and dollars to charity, simply because he got signed by a franchise in another city?" Am I the only one who doesn't boo an opposing team? Am I the only one who claps for an incredible play by the opposing team?

When disrespect is so ingrained in our culture, I am not surprised at all by West or Wilson. I'm surprised these incidents don't happen more frequently.

The Brits get away with calling each other phonies and jeering each other. But this is a unique British phenomenon, as the House of Commons is basically a Comedy Central Roast of the current prime minister. This is faux mockery.

American mockery is real, divisive, disrespectful, and occasionally cruel, and if we don't get a grip on how and when to disagree, we will sully our highest offices and ceremonies, and it will not be long before we become this, this, this, or this. (Okay, we have our own episode already, but it was Alabama).


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