In yesterday's New York Times, Michael Slackman, a Middle East correspondent for the paper, writes of the difficulty of raising two young sons in the "chaotic streets" of Cairo, Egypt: "They have spent much of their formative years in a society that prizes conformity over individuality; where people dare not question authority; where the idea of following your dreams is, for most, not even a dream." It's a problem surely faced by Middle East correspondents of newspapers the tri-state area over: How does a parent instill American ideals in his children while so far from home? Luckily, Slackman has found the solution: by sharing with them the joy of "Weird Al" Yankovic, the United States' preeminent song parodist and, arguably, its leading exporter of liberty.
Slackman writes that, through "Weird Al"'s music, his son "has latched onto a great American freedom — the one to poke fun at whomever, especially ourselves." "'Weird Al''s antics," he continues, "his 'Christmas at Ground Zero' or 'White and Nerdy' couldn't have happened in a society that didn't encourage diversity, tolerance and compromise." We don't have much to add to this, apart from our earnest, wholehearted agreement. We've long been champions of "Weird Al" as an artist, but, until now, we never really considered his greater impact as an American patriot. In some countries, the punishment for playing accordion solos or penning alternate lyrics about food to Michael Jackson songs is death. And to all citizens of those countries, "Weird Al" Yankovic is truly a beacon of hope.