Am I missing something?

I just want to make sure I’m clear on this; it’s no longer alright to make fun of the President of the United States?

I’m referring to the recent controversy over a rodeo clown act held during the Missouri State Fair rodeo last Saturday. From what I can gather the act consisted of putting a mask in the likeness of President Obama on a dummy figure and taunting the crowd with the possibility of a bull ramming it.  The performer then said, “I know I’m a clown, he’s just running around acting like one — doesn’t know he is one.”

And now Fair officials, Missouri governmental officials and others have all chimed in to condemn this comedy act. The Missouri State Fair Commission has called the performer’s act “unacceptable” and has banned the clown from ever participating at the Missouri State Fair in the future. The Missouri Rodeo Cowboys Association also issued an apology on their website stating that they would “like to apologize to those that were offended by any performances at the rodeo in Sedalia,” also permanently banning the performer from participating at the venue.

If they’d banned the rodeo clown for not being funny they might have an argument, but if this is what has everyone in an uproar, I’m dumbfounded.

You would be hard pressed to find anyone who’s attended a rodeo who hasn’t seen a rodeo clown make fun of politicians, including the President of the United States —  in fact, next to Dolly Parton I would say the sitting President is one of their favorite targets. And for that matter, late night talk show hosts and political cartoonists have made their careers out of poking fun at the commander in chief.

Are we as a culture losing our ability to take criticism, to laugh at ourselves? Are we becoming hypersensitive? Are we so afraid of being accused of political incorrectness that we’re more comfortable gagging our right to freedom of speech just because a person of a minority race is involved?

We must be careful to not confuse criticism with racism. Isn’t censoring ourselves in this manner and to this degree out of fear of being seen as racist arguably just another huge setback for race relations in our country? It shows just how far we still have to go.

One of our greatest rights as citizens in this nation is our freedom of speech, the freedom to openly communicate our opinions and ideas about our government, our politicians and any other issue we wish.

I will end with a quote from President George Washington,   “If freedom of speech is taken away, then dumb and silent we may be led, like sheep to the slaughter.”

Letti Lister is the publisher of the Black Hills Pioneer

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