America is a country that takes itself far too seriously. It is of course important to us as its citizens and to the world because of its power but it does to weigh heavy on all of our minds. While Americans have never been renowned for their laughter in the past, we have at times been lighter of heart in our approach to things like our politics. Now few of us are laughing no matter our party or our convictions.
Laughter and positive humor have played an important role in our bonding as a nation, helping us move past many differing opinions in a positive way. It has helped us appreciate each other as people who all love our country. While we value humor as a trigger for laughter, it is important to remember humor can have a dark side. We must be wary of humor used to ridicule others. Laughter itself does not have a dark side except when it is related to ridicule. When we ridicule other people we are playing with what we know about them without their permission and we can do serious damage. If people laugh at ridicule it is generally out of fear it will next be turned on them On the other hand, normal, healthy laughter is a godsend and is the body’s way of reducing stress, anger and anxiety. If we are able to take our feelings and play with them, we will get laughter. Laughter is a strong bonding characteristic of human kind.
Before you question or reject this idea, think about it. The more anxiety and tension we have, the greater our tendency to giggle involuntarily. We seek almost any reason to laugh no matter how unfunny the reason may be. In a tense conference room meeting for example, someone inadvertently slamming a door can provoke laughter. We laugh because we need to.
In our current political climate surely we can use much more laughter. We need to develop ways to be playful about our political beliefs which will relieve our tension and give us perspective. Political values are surely not worth losing relationships with friends or family.
If you are wondering how to involve playfulness in this delicate arena of ideas, minimizing a characteristic like liberalism or conservatism might help. One might exclaim “I’m a little bit liberal about saving the world,” or “I’m a tiny bit conservative about our taxes.” Maximizing a characteristic can also lighten things up. This is often seen in professional comedy. You could give politics a name to be playful about it, ie. Lumpy or Fang. You could send texts saying “I love you, I love you, I love you even when we disagree.” Comical hats can be fun as well. Liberals could wear a donkey hat and conservatives an elephant hat even as they sit together around a dinner table.
Laughter is nature’s apolitical gift to heal our tension and our feelings. We should never give it up. Of course many things are important in life but they don’t have to be serious. Seriousness is an avoidance of emotion. Serious people almost never laugh, cry or get angry. They are busy being serious and want you to be too. That can cause us to lock in combat. We need to play. We need to laugh. The bonding laughter creates is essential to our well-being. Stay close to those you care about. Look for the absurd things in life that surround us, including politics, and laugh out loud.
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