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Humor and Politics

By Rodney Jaleco
If you can’t talk your way out of the most stubborn skeptics, try humor. That’s a tack taken by President Obama’s supporters to quell “birthers” who insist he’s not a natural born American even after producing his “long form” birth certificate from Hawaii.

“There’s really no way to make this stuff completely go away,” Julianna Smoot, deputy campaign manager for Obama for America , conceded. “The only thing we can do is laugh at it, and make sure as many other people as possible are in on the joke.”

Obama supporters apparently got their cue from the President himself when he declared last year, “I can’t spend all of my time with my birth certificate plastered on my forehead.”

Humor can be a potent political tool. When a highly popular but unappreciated Joseph Estrada ran for the presidency in 1998, campaign guru Reli German published “Eraption” that listed some of the funniest jokes at his candidate’s expense. That seemed to take some of the sting out of the fact that Estrada is a college drop-out who delivers his lines like he had one swig too many.

The comparison might be a bit unfair for the erudite Obama and perhaps better used for a certain female “presidentiable” on the opposite side of the political fence who has a knack for kicking up controversy with her words, but Estrada understood the psyche of the masses.

And it could have been humor that made possible a few weeks ago, the banner headline “Donald Ducks”. It was referring to the announcement of billionaire Donald Trump that he’s no longer interested in the Republican presidential nomination.  He dared the President to prove his citizenship, sending his own private investigators to look into Obama’s birth records in Hawaii . He appeared to press on even after the President released his official birth records. And for that, Trump got trumped at what should have been a roasting for President Obama at the White House Correspondents’ dinner in Washington DC.

At a time of often fractious debate in Washington, when the public is demanding solutions but get nothing except finger-pointing and gibberish, it shouldn’t hurt if all these powerful people at the center of life-changing decisions for America also take the time to ask themselves whether the joke’s on them.

We spent the Mother’s Day weekend in New York City that seemed like a showcase of America ‘s nervousness after the death of Al-Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden in Pakistan . It seemed there were as many police cars on Times Square as there were taxi cabs and “pedicabs”.  Dozens of cruisers were parked on streets, policemen in body armor and helmets brandishing long arms but as could be typical of the Big Apple, no one paid mind and the crush of people reminded me so much of Divisoria.

On our way back to DC, we decided to take our Mother’s Day lunch at Max’s Restaurant in Jersey City . We all had been looking forward to visiting the place to see if their fried chicken is as “sarap to the bones” as the ones in Manila . Fortunately, we arrived early and only had to wait 20 minutes to get a table. By the time we had finished the chicken, pancit canton, crispy pata and dinuguan, the queue outside had already stretched around the block.

It was a pleasant experience to strike conversations in Pilipino with the waiters. It’s often been awkward for me to respond to waiters asking for feedback about the food, how the commute was to their place, the virtues of this dish over that, how it’s too warm outside and other inanities all to make you feel like you’ve known them for years or give the impression you’re a regular customer even though it’s your first time in that restaurant. I grew up in a place where the customer talks to the waiter and rarely vice-versa. I appreciate the effort, but it’s different when you’re in a Pinoy place. Sure, we can talk whether the bagoong for the kare-kare is any good but I also wanted to know how they felt about Shane Mosley running away from Manny Pacquiao or which matinee idol from Manila had recently dined there.

The service was outstanding, which is not to say we got the same experience at the Red Ribbon store just around the corner. The sales clerk was unhelpful and rude. Fortunately, my wife and daughter had the good sense to know you can not win against people like that.

Manila Mail reader Corazon Solomon wrote, “Many thanks for inviting us to share our views on Manila Mail.  I am an avid reader of this newspaper, and look forward every fortnight for new publication. I suppose this is the only Filipino publication worth reading, because of the quality articles that it contains.”

Ms. Solomon proceeds to offer her suggestions on how we can improve the Manila Mail, and sends her special wishes to “Tsismoso”. Rest assured, we value your views and opinions. Please keep those letters coming.

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