Sometimes I think that the constant hum of political discourse is unique to our time. Certainly, the tone is billed as uniquely vitriolic – in stark contrast to the bucolic days of yore. Except, I keep uncovering these eviscerating denouncements of a certain elected leader, or particular view, or specific cause, or controversial vote – with all the surrounding discussion and debate. The only difference I can see is that a certain level of pride seemed to stamp each public statement – as if a political position was strengthened by dissent. These days, nearly as much time is spent disassociating from one’s words as in the pontificating.
Adding a second distinguishing feature, this week I discovered the satirical Puck  – begun in Germany and published in America in 1877. Interestingly, the founder collaborated with the renowned Leslie’s Illustrated  prior to making the transition. Headed with the Shakespearean character’s wry commentary, “What fools these mortals be,” the clever magazine takes the tone of an outside, slightly mocking, observer.
The one I selected for perusal deals with the Justice System on the cover, and New York’s participation in the World Fair of 1839. A brief glance at the latter conveys a fairy tale worthy, beautifully colored double page centerfold that on closer inspection mocks the greed associated with the exposition and its participants.
It’s an elevated tone, when compared with the shrill modern volume on television and radio. Somehow, satire is more palatable to me — a velvet glove of watercolor illustration covering the iron fist of debate in a place where freedom of speech was so highly esteemed that it was almost an art form.