As most of you know, I spent my twenties in the Air Force as a pilot. This means that all the things that folks generally do in their twenties, I did while a pilot in the Air Force. Before this, I was a very active little Bible thumper at church, and always working towards being an Eagle Scout at Boy Scouts. Then came college at a small private college, in a super small town whose only bar I never frequented. The picture I’m trying to paint is that I lived a life full of full disclosure. I could, did, and was encouraged to talk about life within all these groups. Real life, you know? Personal things didn’t stay personal. We all just lived together, good, bad, and ugly.
Due to the limited size of groups I was in within the elite pilot training program that is the Air Force’s SUPT, I never really gave much thought to the very different nature of social environment that I had then found myself in as a 23 year old. Put plainly, I hadn’t had my trust broken in life yet, and given the similarly small group size, I just assumed the Air Force would be no different.
Suffice it to say, I was wrong. And I got burned big time.
Time go’d on. Time go’d on.
I became known as a guy who wasn’t “one of the guys”. The fellas liked me and all, but they knew that I wouldn’t put up with much teasing (said I had “thin skin”) and they knew that I wouldn’t dish it out much either.
One day, a mentor figure saw my consternation (and I saw he saw) and so I finally asked him for help. He sat me down and answered my confusion by saying, “Pete. It just makes people more comfortable when they know that they can pick on you and that you’re willing to pick on them. Nobody means anything by it. But when you don’t join in, it feels off, and makes us nervous. You know we all really like you, right? We’re just picking on you a bit extra because we like your reaction so much. So if you want, feel free to give it back and then we’ll eventually get to a happy medium and all will be well.”
I was pretty sure then, and am more sure now, that this type of moment is rare. And so I considered it and then happily consented. And all was well.
The point of this trip down memory lane is to demonstrate that I know the concept that being picked on (a seemingly negative event) can actually be proof of a positive and healthy relationship. So, when Andrew Sullivan’s piece on Chappelle’s controversial joke landed, “Dave Chappelle Is Right, Isn’t He?”, I was intrigued and gave it a read.
In short, Mr. Sullivan claims that, much like my mentor, Mr. Chappelle, in making his joke, is doing the trans community a solid by picking on them. Mr. Sullivan argues that it’s good for the trans folk to be picked on, argues that it proves they’re approved.
Like my personal situation, I have to agree that Mr. Sullivan is right that Mr. Chappelle is doing the trans community a favor by directly, and with surgical precision, picking on them. (Make no mistake, Chappelle picks on the trans community.)
But I cannot agree that anything meaningful is taking place. The most compelling social/political problem in America and the West today (and given the hegemonic value of America—in the world today) is people valuing “social justice” and “equity” and “diversity” and “equality” and “inclusivity” above morality. It’s this replacement of core values that’s the problem, not one particular social group’s standing in society. Here’s how I know.
There is one little sentence that can be uttered which brings the whole house down, one little claim that shakes the foundation to the core. One minor comment that brings to the surface the true nature of the social/political problems our nation faces.
It’s arguable that Dave Chappelle is the greatest living comedian. It’s definitely true that he is on the leading edge—a bonafide influencer of the highest order—of Western Culture. But these two facts, powerful as they sound, don’t negate the claim I’m still preambling and which will not disappoint.
Ready? (I’m excited for you.)
“Dave Chappelle’s joke ultimately is not like my mentor’s advice, nor like Mr. Sullivan’s assessment, because Dave Chappelle is black.”
Of course he can safely say the joke. To pick on Mr. Chappelle will only earn you the label “racist”.
If you think Mr. Chappelle’s joke could do anything but help the trans community, that’s your mistake. A joke which hurts the trans community is like Muslim Imams performing wedding ceremonies for gays. It just ain’t happening. The only thing that Mr. Chappelle’s joke has influenced is the amount of confusion.
It’s not confusion we’re after, it’s alignment. It’s integrity.
My mentor helped me because he had spent years developing himself into someone all considered worthy from whom to seek social advice. So when I was stuck, I sought help, sought wisdom from him, regarding how to navigate a confusing social environment.
On the other hand, the trans community is not interested in social advice. They feign to seek social approval—and from a culture which has so far shown nothing short of total willingness to re-center the culture on “social/political tranquility” instead of “moral excellence”.
Does Mr. Sullivan have pithy distillation power on Mr. Chappelle’s inverse goal? Sure. Does Mr. Sullivan (and other erudite pop culture commenters) make the clever, pragmatic observation that he supposes he does? Nope.
Mr. Chappelle doesn’t get cancelled because he’s black.
Final proof: Anyone see Jerry Seinfeld addressing the trans community like Mr. Chappelle does? Anyone see Brad Pitt jumping on the Chappelle Show? Anyone see Leonardo Dicaprio or Christian Bale or George Clooney or Steven Spielberg or Craig, Daniel Craig signing a petition with Mr. Chappelle? No. No, we don’t. We do not see these demi-gods doing these things. And we won’t either. Why not? Because the real fight between social/political tranquility and moral excellence is ongoing and they’re hedging their bets.
If you think Mr. Chappelle’s joke is helping the trans community, you’re right.
Conversely, if you think the trans individuals need help, you’re right.