I have never liked cheap humor, slapstick comedy or potty humor. I love satires, which is not completely surprising, since I am a tad bit sarcastic. Satire is cerebral and pithy, carefully crafted to make you think. It contains elements of truth twisted with fantasy, and it is up to the viewer to interpret a deeper meaning. Good satire is multilayered, multidimensional, sickening and funny all at the same time.
Tina Fey’s Saturday Night Live sheet cake skit about Charlottesville moved me for all of these reasons. The entire skit was giving voice to the majority of Americans who are frozen with shock. In our Sonoma County bubble, I cannot count the congregants who have told me, “I just don’t know what to do; I am so scared.”
Clearly, supporting a local Jewish or African-American owned bakery would not help at all. Clearly stuffing your face with cake or screaming into an American flag decorated sheet cake as you stab it with a grilled cheese sandwich is not a solution to anything. Just the opposite: stuff your face with sheet cake and end up with a sugar high and stomachache. Yet, how many people stress eat?
How many people really don’t know where to turn in the face of chaos that seems to be surrounding us?
At the same time, Tina also states many truthful, deeply troubling facts. We did steal America from the Native Americans! When the Native Americans protested, we did shoot rubber bullets at them, even though we allow white supremacists to protest.
The skit brought to light the powerlessness that many of us are feeling these days. Tina’s words were poignant, and that’s why every news outlet has had to respond! My favorite response was from Playboy… never thought I would say that!
Tina really pushes viewers to check their privilege, to ask deep questions about how they can be change agents rather than passive viewers. After all, only privileged people get to sit around in sweats eating cake.
Tina’s voice is inaudible during parts of the segment, even though we know that her words are carefully crafted… if they are inaudible, maybe they don’t count! Maybe screaming into a cake– a not so subtle metaphor for America– won’t solve any problems. Ironically, her voice in this nationally televised segment sparked such controversy, such fanfare and even a grassroots movement of sheet cake parties. I can’t count how many Shabbat tables delighted in sheet cake this past Friday night!
The sheet cake parties are one step in the right direction. Yes, they are fun, and, in moderation, the cakes taste good. But the sheet cake parties need another element. We need to gather around a sheet cake to listen, discuss and figure out productive and necessary actions!
Tina clearly discourages people from counter protesting this weekend (the same advice our Jewish agencies have given), yet she does it with brilliance by telling people to treat these rallies like “the opening of a thoughtful movie with two female leads: don’t show up. Let these morons scream into the empty air.”
How can we give a voice to all those who feel silenced? How do we fight against white supremacy, racism and hate in a safe nonviolent way? There is no silver lining with the rise of anti-Semitism and racism in America. Now we need to look for adaptive methods for education, cross-cultural dialogue and eradicating hate from our hearts.
Martin Luther King Jr. said it best, “Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive our hate; only love can do that.”