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What’s your favorite politician joke? Everyone knows at least one—or should. I worry about the people who tsk, tsk, tsk at humor that targets our respected institutions such as government or media. Why?
–Pry the Mind Open
When we laugh, we lower our automatic defense systems—defense systems that keep us from hearing anything we don’t want to hear. It doesn’t matter what party you prefer or your what your religious affiliation or even your ethnic background might be. We form defenses that block anything that feels like an attack—or we automatically launch a counter attack. In any case, when we’re in defensive mode, we can’t be open-minded. We don’t hear. We sit on our critical thinking.
When I was young (really, I’m not sure I was born yet), I used to enjoy television programs such as “That Was the Week That Was” or “Laugh-in.” I paid more attention to world leaders and events because I wanted to be able to “get” the jokes. I became a better citizen. Democracy depends on a public that’s informed. Ignorance opens the door to abuses.
–Avoid Worshipping People
Humor keeps us from forgetting that our leaders—all of our leaders—are merely human beings—aunts and uncles and grandparents who have bad days and good days. They get lonely, tired, frustrated, and lusty. We want them to be better than we are–less vulnerable, and they are if they have good advisors because the advisors remind them when they’re being foolish—if they’re listening. Some of them are extraordinarily good people; some are extraordinarily manipulative people. They’re all human. If the German people hadn’t been so desperate for a super-hero, they might not have been as vulnerable to Hitler’s persuasion.
When the world suffered 9/11, we could hardly breathe as we watched the destruction over and over and over again on TV. We wept and prayed and felt pain with the families of the victims. The media kept telling us how vulnerable we are, how easily we can be killed. We stopped laughing. But America wasn’t designed to cower. Fear makes a country weak. In my opinion, Jon Stewart was a hero because he showed us how to grieve, to respect, and then to keep the attack in perspective, to keep ourselves in perspective. The humor on “The Daily Show,” the show he headed, reminded us that we’re beaten only when we believe we are. Adversity can make a people stronger.
Lots of people hated “The Daily Show” and felt relief when it ended last night. Its liberal bent and impolite humor offended many. I didn’t appreciate all of the “bits.” (I’m from another time.) However, for our country to remain strong, we need more political satire to keep us honest, to help us smell the b.s. Maturity requires that we deal not only with what we wish were true, but also with what is. Be afraid of anyone who can’t be wrong. Looking at ourselves as we are—ugliness and all—and laughing is a power behind America. It’s the power extremists cannot comprehend.