Irony: Makes Its Entrance

The Onion is what brings it all together. Through the emergence and history of this magazine, we, all of us, the writers who live in this country, understand what we are doing — we, the writers, foreign and native, of this country — we are swimming in the currents of ironic existentialism, and by God, we are enjoying ourselves as we do it.

For every one of us, whether we originate from a culture outside of this one, or from one that’s embedded within the United States, The Onion embodies the experience of coming out to irony. We are not born ironic, for we are born to our own true selves. This self is something we are chained to, clad in, from the moment of our conception. This self is the reflection in ourselves of the glad, hopeful, faces of our parents. These parents, no matter where their provenance, are not ironic. They are unboundedly sentimental, and their sentimentalism is the progenitor, and arch-enemy, of the irony that will be forever part of our lives. They are sentimental because they have just suborned themselves to the most basic of human needs, the need to give birth to the perpetrator of their genetic inheritance. In this need are bound together their deepest biological and spiritual imperatives — to have after them something made in their own image.

And The Onion is the most subversive of retorts — that this imperative, and everything else they stand for, that all any one can stand for, is open to ridicule and to questioning.

Where else in this world can this impressively impertinent idea survive, untouched and unchallenged by any Bowdlerization, any politically-correct vendetta, any fatwa or jihad? Why, but in the United States, where the ultimate expression of political and economic empire dictates that self-introspection, so indistinguishable from self-cartooning, should be the uber-apothegm of self-expression!

And it is only in this supremely reigning culture, the only culture that can produce something like The Onion, can any other culture arrive to express itself fully, to understand itself fully, to identify itself fully. The Chinese are not Chinese in China; they are Chinese only in the United States because only here is their essential nature open to comparison, competition and caricature, with other cultures. There are no hyphens more pervasive, more in-your-face, than those that carry in their hindparts, that dread word: “American.” There are no Jamaican-Finns, nor any Japanese-Nigerians. But there are hyphenated Americans of every faith and geography, and in this truth lies the power of American cultural hegemony.


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