Sunday, March 15, 2015

How Are Sherman Alexie and Steven Colbert Alike?

Wherever you are politically, you probably find the other side naively misguided or dangerously evil. You probably have at least one friend on the other side. What to do?

Tip: Laughter just might be the quickest route to compassion, healing, and insight.

Alexie and Colbert are both comedians of many trades, but comparing a pundit to a novelist feels like comparing “truthiness” to facts. Yet here they both are on conflict in America:

It’s like this white-Indian thing has gotten out of control. And the thing with the blacks and the Mexicans. Everybody blaming everybody...I don’t know what happened. I can’t explain it all. Just look around at the world. Look at this country. Things just aren’t like they used to be. – Sherman Alexie, Indian Killer

Let’s all go back to the good old days! Here’s another.

Join me in standing up against any actual knowledge about guns. Let the CDC know they can take away our ignorance when they pry it from our cold dead minds. – Stephen Colbert

Or on homophobia from a devout Catholic:

Christianity is the best way to cure gayness — just get on your knees, take a swig of wine, and accept the body of a man into your mouth. – Stephen Colbert


My grandmother’s greatest gift was tolerance. Now, in the old days, Indians used to be forgiving of any kind of eccentricity. In fact, weird people were often celebrated. Epileptics were often shamans because people just assumed that God gave seizure-visions to the lucky ones. Gay people were seen as magical too. I mean, like in many cultures, men were viewed as warriors and women were viewed as caregivers. But gay people, being both male and female, were seen as both warriors and caregivers. Gay people could do anything. They were like Swiss Army knives! My grandmother had no use for all the gay bashing and homophobia in the world, especially among other Indians. “Jeez,” she said, Who cares if a man wants to marry another man? All I want to know is who’s going to pick up all the dirty socks?” – Sherman Alexie, The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian

What’s this got to do with your fiction?

~ The angrier you are, then the more you need to understate.
~ The angrier you are, then the more you need irony.
~ The more you want people to listen, then the more you need to make them laugh. at least 

Novels change us by clarifying the issues. Ranting only divides, as does oversimplifying characters into heroes or villains. As Colbert put it, “That’s why I don’t think I could ever stop doing what I’m doing, because I laugh all day long and if I didn’t I would just cry all day long….I would say laughter is the best medicine. But it’s more than that. It’s an entire regime of antibiotics and steroids.” Here’s to our health.

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