Press-Telegram (Long Beach)
Wokeness is just a hot Potato Head
We got a little rain last Wednesday and that made me happy. We desperately need rain, and the occasional rainy day breaks up the monotony of Southern California’s perpetual sunny and 78. That is, when it’s not sunny and
Still, as I went about enjoying myself, I felt an unnerving anxiety as if I were doing something naughty. Then it dawned on me, I wasn’t outraged about anything. Can you believe it?
Of course, it’s exhausting to stay outraged 24/7/365 even if it’s expected of us. Luckily, we live in an era when an entire industry exists for the sole purpose of keeping us enraged.
Social media, political parties and garden variety internet trolls, all stir the pot with whatever the outrage-du-jour happens to be.
Last week, along with the rain, we were treated to a double-dose of doom: Mr. and Mrs. Potato Head, the beloved children’s play-spuds, had been neutered by the cancel culture.
Hence forth, the binary tubers are to be re-branded as simply “Potato Head.” A gender-free alternative to placate the easily offended, reduce packaging and marketing costs, or simply as a publicity stunt to move the product. Whatever the motivation, days of national teeth-gnashing erupted.
“This is the end of freedom,” said Glenn Beck, who apparently believes the only thing standing between us and the
Fourth Reich is a fauxpotato with interchangeable body parts.
People haven’t been this upset about potatoes since Dan Quayle left office.
After absorbing this blow to civilization, the second jackboot landed: six Dr. Seuss books were dropped from the wildly popular Seuss catalogue because they contain stereotypical or racist depictions. This decision was made by Dr. Seuss Enterprises and backed by publisher Random House.
Both the Potato Head dustup and Dr. Seuss decision spawned the usual avalanche of social media memes; accusations of censorship, hypocritical double-standards and undoubtedly caused sweaty palms in the corporate offices of Mr. Clean, Dairy Queen, Slim Jim and Manwich. The ever-shifting line of cultural sensitivity continues to sweep away iconic brand names and frequently commonsense along with them.
Our rush to scrub modern life of everything that anyone could possibly deem offensive is a zero-sum game. While some things have obviously outlived their cultural sell by date, over-the-top hypersensitivity to things like the gender of toy potatoes makes a mockery of diversity and inclusion. There’s a difference between empathy and witch-burning.
First, they came for George Washington and Abraham Lincoln. Now they’ve come for Mr. Potato Head.
While attempting to correct sins of the past we frequently err in the opposite direction, with a can-you-top-this arms race of virtue-signaling as politicians, corporations, media and individuals rush to prove how not racist, sexist and homo/transphobic they are.
The endless pile-on of outrage has led to the inevitable backlash prompting some to deliberately invoke slurs and derogatory language as if they’re taking a stand for the First Amendment.
Hasbro is not the government. They can call their plastic potatoes whatever they want. You are free to buy or not buy them. That’s not censorship. That’s the free market.
As the spud-storm and Suezsquabble fueled another round of finger-pointing, human traffickers cut a hole in our flimsy border fence near El Centro and drove an SUV stuffed with 25 people into the country illegally. A gravel-hauler promptly plowed into it, killing at least 12. Where’s the outrage over this?
A new president now has the illegal immigration hot potato in his lap. There’s nothing humane about our broken immigration system. It’s time to finally, solve this very solvable problem so we can get onto bigger fish, like how mean the Royal Family has been to Meghan and Harry.
Is there any rain in the forecast?