Today I expected that the latest New Yorker would be in the mailbox; it's always here by Tuesday. But it hasn't arrived yet. Now I'm worried (not too seriously) that the mailman kept it from me because the cover is just too raw for my innocent Midwestern eyes (more on those eyes later).
Barry Blitt's cartoon has been roundly derided, in all quarters, as deeply offensive. But to me it is an absolutely brilliant satirical work that epitomizes all of the vicious lies that are currently on offer about Barack and Michelle Obama. It stings because it is sharp, not because it is racist.
You might protest: what about the people who won't get it? Sure--people in Berkeley or Manhattan know it's a joke. We're sophisticated, by golly. But what about all those stupid saps in the heartland? (You know--like the people I grew up with and love.) They will see this and take it at face value, and vote for Mr. McCain accordingly.
So, at one level this controversy reveals straight up coastal snobbery. Many people all over this land see Blitt's work for the statement it is, not just those of us in the coastal cocoons.
But indeed, many people--in all parts of the country--won't get it. This is unfortunate, but it doesn't mean the New Yorker shouldn't have run the cartoon. If the media had to worry about the likely reaction to everything it produced, pretty soon all we could watch safely is reruns of Mr. Rogers.
And that would get old.