The Satire Paradox: Part Two

by lisa st john

“Satire is, by definition, offensive. It is meant to make us feel uncomfortable. It is meant to make us scratch our heads, think, do a double-take, and then think again.” Maajid Nawaz

  1. the use of humor, irony, exaggeration, or ridicule to expose and criticize people’s stupidity or vices, particularly in the context of contemporary politics and other topical issues.

I wrote a post back in February of 2015 called “The Satire Paradox Part One,” so I thought I would try and finish my thoughts here, in Part Two. The problem is that I am not at all the same person as I was 41 months ago.

Unbeknownst to me, the term Satire Paradox is an actual phenomenon written about in a study done byHeather Lamarre. A good explanation can be found in the article, “Stephen Colbert and the Pitfalls of Modern Political Satire.”

Basically, it is when satire backfires and people actually BELIEVE what the satirist is making fun of. For instance, when I assigned a group of students to read Jonathan Swift‘s “A Modest Proposal,” some of them came in angry and disgusted. Not, however, angry and disgusted at the level of Irish poverty Swift was bringing to light, but angry and disgusted that someone would actually consider eating children. Uhm…he didn’t condone eating children. Swift was making a point about the English ignoring the poverty. Sigh.

Back in 2012, the satirical online newspaper The Onion published a headline that fooled China (yes, the country of China). It read, “Kim Jong Un: The Sexiest Man Alive.” Much to the delight of the Twitterverse and The Onion, China took the story and ran with it. “The Chinese website had underscored its story by including its own 55-page photo gallery to accompany the text… .”

Satire Definition:


But my original post back in 2015 was more about paradox than satire.

“My mind teased me this morning in that nano-moment; Kent wasn’t gone, and I wasn’t a widow and then–But that’s what makes us human, right? Caring? Suffering? Therein lies the paradox (and is the joke ever on us): we live to love and be hurt so we know what love is and what it means to hurt so we know what life is. Humph. Or is it all a big satire created to change us into better humans? …This morning he wasn’t gone, he just was… almost here.” (“The Satire Paradox Part One“)

Since 2012, I have:

published a chapbook of poetry,

taken a sabbatical to explore the writing life,

become a mother-in-law,

attended somewhere between 25-100 writing workshops/classes,

begun a memoir about Kent’s long illness and eventual death,

started a new blog about widow/ers,

created my professional website,

become a grandmother∗,

and commenced peace talks with my grief.


The irony (not really a paradox and certainly not satire) is that I still have those nano-moments when I think Kent is just about to come home from a long trip.

The days are long but the years are short. too.




A video on paradox that I couldn’t resist:





∗A Grand mother. Una abuela.

I cannot begin to describe what this feels like. I cried and cried when he was born and I saw him with his parents. I did not cry because I was sad, but because I was grateful. Grateful that my son and his wife have what they need to raise a beautiful human: joy, music, love, empathy, gratitude, creativity, soulfulness, compassion, humor, intellect, curiosity, magic, honesty, truth, strength, and grace.

I need new, more specific, words for bliss and love when I hold my grandson.

For me to put this feeling into words, it’s going to take a while, maybe my whole life.

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