Kudos to The Daily Show for last week’s three-part special exploring Australia’s gun control policy and what American isn’t learning from its example.
Correspondent John Oliver traveled to the Land Down Under to interview the public officials who fought to enact the 1996 policy that saw the Conservative government buying back thousands of semi-automatic weapons, as well as imposing stricter background checks and storage laws on other forms of firearms. The change was implemented in the wake of a mass shooting and since it has taken effect, Australia has seen dramatically reduced levels of gun violence.
One of the most interesting interviews of the segment, for me, was a values comparison between a former conservative member of the Australian parliament, Rob Burbidge, who committed political suicide in supporting the legislation and a long-time former aide to Harry Reid, Jim Manley (found in Part 2). Oliver asked both men how they measured success in politics. Manley’s knee-jerk response: “getting re-elected by your constituents.” Burbidge’s: “making society a better place.” For him, his political career was worth the countless lives the legislation has undoubtedly saved since its enactment.
Though The Daily Show may not seem to take itself seriously, it regularly (and, often, eloquently) exposes the underlying corruption of values in American politics and news media. I generally have conflicted feelings about my American identity when watching The Daily Show (and, just, always): I am ashamed at the way our government and mainstream media conduct themselves and represent this country, but I am proud that the The Daily Show is also a part of the contemporary American landscape. It may be produced to provoke laughter, but laughter is a political statement as much as rhetoric is. Satire is a cutting political tool. As a young American and citizen of this increasingly globally-reflexive world, The Daily Show gives me something that is getting decidedly harder to come by these days: hope for the future.