Sail away

There was a time when liberals had a sense of humor, when they enjoyed ironic wordplay, when they recognized that the reality of malice or evil could be suggested subtly but powerfully by a wry expression.

Remember that old Randy Newman song, "Sail Away" (featured on an album of the same name in 1972)?  Here's Newman's sardonic comment on slavery – presented in the form of a sales pitch for leaving Africa and seeking a fresh start in the New World...

In America you'll get food to eat
Won't have to run through the jungle
And scuff up your feet
You'll just sing about Jesus and drink wine all day
It's great to be an American

Newman's benign invitation to sail away encapsulated the essence of slavery satirically, by presenting wickedness as betterment.  In a sense, it played on St. Paul's insight about "the glamor of evil."

Everybody understood what Newman was trying to say.  His humor carried the message.

Fast-forward to 2017...

"Ben Carson's a disgrace for calling slaves immigrants."

So screams the headline on a commentary by Leonard Greene of the New York Daily News.

Let's see if I have this straight. When men and women and children were kidnapped from their villages and separated from their families and packed into rickety ships for months at a time to be traded for tobacco and cotton and cloth and grain, that was immigration?

When people were branded with hot irons like cattle on a ranch so that ownership of one human being by another human being would not be in dispute, that was immigration?

Greene's complaint strikes me as deeply disingenuous.  The New York Daily News writer couldn't really have believed that Ben Carson doesn't know the difference between voluntary immigration and being abducted into a life of forced servitude.

Of course not.  Greene understood perfectly well that Carson wasn't dismissing the cruelty of slavery.  And he surely knew that Carson wasn't indulging in the dark humor of Randy Newman's "Sail Away."

That's what America is about, a land of dreams and opportunity. There were other immigrants who came here in the bottom of slave ships, worked even longer, even harder for less. But they too had a dream that one day their sons, daughters, grandsons, granddaughters, great-grandsons, great-granddaughters, might pursue prosperity and happiness in this land.

In his typically understated way, Carson was describing the far greater disadvantages those brought to America in chains had to overcome in order to pursue their dreams.

But understatement is out of fashion in our current hyper-politicized atmosphere.  Anything short of a fevered demand for social justice marks Ben Carson as a pawn of malevolent racists and reactionaries.

Well, hey – he does work for Donald Trump, right?

Thus, Leonard Greene impugns one of the most thoughtful and humane individuals on the public scene today.

If you can get past the petty nastiness of such political correctness – shared by lots of other media beside the Daily News – this situation is almost funny.  It puts me in mind of those personnel recruiting ads that always end by proclaiming, "XYZ Company is an equal-opportunity employer."

It goes without saying that XYZ Company is an equal-opportunity employer.  All companies are equal-opportunity employers.  It's the law, for cryin' out loud.  Any business that isn't an equal-opportunity employer will soon find itself being fined to the point of bankruptcy.

But these days, if you don't shout your ideological commitment from the rooftops – that is to say, if you don't declare your submission to the prevailing social-political paradigm – you must be morally deficient.

Wouldn't it be wonderful if a humorist of Randy Newman's stature decided to turn his wit on the stilted and narrow-minded outlook of the left?

I don't know anything about Newman's politics.  But if he shares the views held by those celebrities who promised to leave the country if Trump won, I won't hold my breath.

By the way, how come they're all still here?

Sail away, little lefty.  Sail away.

Bill Kassel is a writer, communications consultant, and media producer.  His essays and random rants can be found online at www.billkassel.com.

There was a time when liberals had a sense of humor, when they enjoyed ironic wordplay, when they recognized that the reality of malice or evil could be suggested subtly but powerfully by a wry expression.

Remember that old Randy Newman song, "Sail Away" (featured on an album of the same name in 1972)?  Here's Newman's sardonic comment on slavery – presented in the form of a sales pitch for leaving Africa and seeking a fresh start in the New World...

In America you'll get food to eat
Won't have to run through the jungle
And scuff up your feet
You'll just sing about Jesus and drink wine all day
It's great to be an American

Newman's benign invitation to sail away encapsulated the essence of slavery satirically, by presenting wickedness as betterment.  In a sense, it played on St. Paul's insight about "the glamor of evil."

Everybody understood what Newman was trying to say.  His humor carried the message.

Fast-forward to 2017...

"Ben Carson's a disgrace for calling slaves immigrants."

So screams the headline on a commentary by Leonard Greene of the New York Daily News.

Let's see if I have this straight. When men and women and children were kidnapped from their villages and separated from their families and packed into rickety ships for months at a time to be traded for tobacco and cotton and cloth and grain, that was immigration?

When people were branded with hot irons like cattle on a ranch so that ownership of one human being by another human being would not be in dispute, that was immigration?

Greene's complaint strikes me as deeply disingenuous.  The New York Daily News writer couldn't really have believed that Ben Carson doesn't know the difference between voluntary immigration and being abducted into a life of forced servitude.

Of course not.  Greene understood perfectly well that Carson wasn't dismissing the cruelty of slavery.  And he surely knew that Carson wasn't indulging in the dark humor of Randy Newman's "Sail Away."

That's what America is about, a land of dreams and opportunity. There were other immigrants who came here in the bottom of slave ships, worked even longer, even harder for less. But they too had a dream that one day their sons, daughters, grandsons, granddaughters, great-grandsons, great-granddaughters, might pursue prosperity and happiness in this land.

In his typically understated way, Carson was describing the far greater disadvantages those brought to America in chains had to overcome in order to pursue their dreams.

But understatement is out of fashion in our current hyper-politicized atmosphere.  Anything short of a fevered demand for social justice marks Ben Carson as a pawn of malevolent racists and reactionaries.

Well, hey – he does work for Donald Trump, right?

Thus, Leonard Greene impugns one of the most thoughtful and humane individuals on the public scene today.

If you can get past the petty nastiness of such political correctness – shared by lots of other media beside the Daily News – this situation is almost funny.  It puts me in mind of those personnel recruiting ads that always end by proclaiming, "XYZ Company is an equal-opportunity employer."

It goes without saying that XYZ Company is an equal-opportunity employer.  All companies are equal-opportunity employers.  It's the law, for cryin' out loud.  Any business that isn't an equal-opportunity employer will soon find itself being fined to the point of bankruptcy.

But these days, if you don't shout your ideological commitment from the rooftops – that is to say, if you don't declare your submission to the prevailing social-political paradigm – you must be morally deficient.

Wouldn't it be wonderful if a humorist of Randy Newman's stature decided to turn his wit on the stilted and narrow-minded outlook of the left?

I don't know anything about Newman's politics.  But if he shares the views held by those celebrities who promised to leave the country if Trump won, I won't hold my breath.

By the way, how come they're all still here?

Sail away, little lefty.  Sail away.

Bill Kassel is a writer, communications consultant, and media producer.  His essays and random rants can be found online at www.billkassel.com.

RECENT VIDEOS