Normally I don't get deep into world events and politics because I believe politics and religion are topics that should be discussed only if two parties have agreed to discuss them. I believe what I believe and I'm perfectly happy to live in a world where other people worship and vote differently than I do, so long as we all understand that we still have to be kind and polite to each other.
That said, I feel like I have to say something touching on the horrible terrorist attack in Manchester at the Ariana Grande concert. What hit home for me in this story is that some ten years ago this could have easily been me with my daughter at a Jonas Brothers concert. Every parent whose taken their child to a concert aimed at teens, I'm sure, felt the pain when they heard the news about this specific attack.
See, what makes this one different is that it specifically targeted young people. This was not an attack on a shopping mall or a political building or a bank. This was an attack where the vast majority of the victims were very young, people who had barely begun to live, children who may not even understand what evil there is in the world.
Regardless of what religion you are or what your politics are, or even what your opinion of teen agers might be (and having raised two of them, yes I know...they can be less than a joy to be around) you have to understand that this is a dark, dark event. When we as a species turns our violence onto our young, we are doomed.
What can we do?
As writers and authors, we've heard the whole "Then pen is mightier than the sword" many, many times. And that might be true. But I'm thinking we have enough flame throwing reporters and editors out there raging against violence and injustice. And the world keeps getting angrier and angrier.
I propose this: Maybe a different tactic, which might seem weak and silly, but it goes hand in hand with another cliche we writers know very well: Laughter is the best medicine.
I've long said in this life you're going to face bad things and you can cry or you can laugh and I chose to laugh. Believe me, I've seen enough fear, sadness, illness, anger, pain, and loathing in my personal life, I could dwell on it and never leave my house and never smile again. But I think the courageous thing is to find the sliver of humor, that glimmer of joy and focus on that. Only if we are able to find the good in anything will we be able to look at each other, no matter how different we are, and still be peaceful.
Those who laugh are often discounted as out of touch, silly, unintelligent. I disagree. I'm not talking about shrugging off these attacks and saying, "Well the world sucks and we're all going to die, but hey, isn't that hilarious?" I'm talking about saying, "Yes, this is horrible. But what is there in life that is good? I'd like to focus on that."
I know it seems naive, but I think that we, as wordsmiths, call pull readers up from despair by
offering an escape into joy, humor, fantasy. It's not running away from the issues of the world, it's offering a moment of respite and relief. Books have long been the haven for those who wish to escape.
In doing personal appearances at odd places, like Farmers' Markets or Craft Fairs, believe me, I've
seen how many people simply do not read anymore. They just don't. But maybe that's our fault as writers. Maybe there's just too much dangers and evil and negativity on bookstore shelves now. I mean, how else do you explain Food Network's popularity? An entire network devoted to cooking? And yet, I know when I turn on "Chopped" I'm not going to see images of blown up arenas or angry mobs, or people protesting everything. It's a moment away from it all.
So here's what I want to encourage both writes and readers: Let's find something funny and grab on to it. Let's find joy and relief in words. We can do that. We writers, we can offer humor, love, escapism, entertainment and joy. And readers, even those of you who aren't readers, you can dip a toe back into the written word and see where it takes you.
Maybe escaping into a book won't stop suicide bombings or other acts of terrorism. Probably not. But still...if we are able to find joy in our lives, how much better are we equipped to reach out to others who are different from us and find common ground? And if we have common ground, how much more likely will it be that we can find peace with each other?
Isn't it worth a try?
To that end, check out the comedy book listings on Amazon. Maybe your favorite is in this list. (My personal favorite is Jim Gaffigan's "Food, a Love Story."
And yes, I have a couple humor books of my own. I've long been inspired by the works of the late, great, Erma Bombeck, and I write my own brand of humor with joy in her honor. You'll find the links there on the right of this blog.
Again, friends, think about it...finding a happy place might make us look on each other with a better frame of mind. "Laugh and the world laughs with you." Right?
I don't know...it might just work. I'm willing to give it a try.