Don't clown around in the Show Me State
By Trent Loos
Last Monday morning I found a little story that I figured wouldn’t get much attention so I used it on my Rural Route Radio program. Strangely enough, my regular Monday guest, Hank Vogler from Nevada, wanted to talk about the same thing because he caught a piece of it on the news. A Missouri State Fair rodeo clown mocked Obama and was now in big trouble.
Are you kidding me? This is big news? Apparently it was and by noon it was all over the country like a runaway horse.
For those of you that might have missed it, here is a brief summary of what reportedly happened.
During an evening rodeo performance at the Missouri State Fair, the rodeo clown came out with an Obama mask on. Playing to the crowd and wearing a microphone, he asked the crowd, “Who wants to see Obama run down by a bull?”
Evidently the crowd went wild and the clown proceeded to take it even further and really got the crowd whipped into a frenzy. Isn’t that the role of an entertainer?
The mass media has latched onto that like this was the first president anyone has ever made fun of. What captured my attention was the initial call for this to be racially based and there were even several accounts that mentioned a KKK rally.
As the week progressed, slowly but surely pictures have been cropping up on social media with rodeo clowns wearing both Hillary Clinton and George Bush masks—some were even taken at the Missouri State Fair rodeo performance. However, those events were evidently not worthy of news coverage. Has it really come to that?
I know as well as anybody that entertaining is about riding a fine line—you have to be edgy enough to keep an audience without crossing that imaginary line. I did contact friends of mine who have spent years clowning at rodeos and they told me political jokes are the first to get you in trouble. Now why is that?
I don’t believe for one minute that this has any racial tone whatsoever but did the clown go too far? The Missouri State Fair said “yes” and they have permanently banned that clown from any future State Fair rodeos. Evidently you can’t clown around about the president unless you are an overpaid late night talk show host.
The Missouri Rodeo Association has issued a public apology. The Professional Rodeo Cowboy Association even issued a statement stating they are disappointed and in no way involved with “that” rodeo.
What are we all so afraid of? Quite frankly, I am more concerned with the reaction to the situation than I am to what the clown did. Rodeo is a celebration of rural America. Rural America believes in the foundational principles of freedom and freedom of speech is one of the most important. Are we willing to give up those freedoms?
This, to me, is the most blatant display of the gap and lack of understanding between the lifestyles of rural and urban America. Many on social media have said that I, of all of people, should not endorse this type of behavior because it further drives a wedge between us. I am all about dialogue and communication but I am not about being told that my freedoms and things that I enjoy must be stymied because my urban counterparts just don’t get it.
First and foremost the discussion should be about the respect of human life. I have just looked up the word “respect” in Merriam-Webster and the definition that fits this is “high or special regard.” I fully understand why respect for the sitting president is important, but I also believe that it is a two-way street. The reason the crowd got so worked up is because they don’t feel the sitting president has respect for their daily contributions to life in the United States of America.
So let’s have an honest and real discussion about connecting rural and urban America, but that conversation does not start with us asking for forgiveness for the important jobs we do just because they don’t fall in line with the preconceived images of those not willing to get their hands dirty.
Editor’s note: Trent Loos is a sixth generation United States farmer, host of the daily radio show, Loos Tales, and founder of Faces of Agriculture, a non-profit organization putting the human element back into the production of food. Get more information at www.FacesOfAg.com, or email Trent at firstname.lastname@example.org.