• America in Turmoil … And Time for the Critical Safety Valve of Laughter

    Surge Summary: In the midst of emotional debate over genuinely critical political and cultural issues America needs a safety valve — and laughter, specifically political cartoons and satire, provide it. Let’s take advantage of it. 

    by Nathan Clark

    Growing up, my mom used a pressure cooker in her kitchen to shorten cooking times on many dishes.  There was always a relief valve on top of the pot, which released steam pressure so it wouldn’t exceed the metal’s strength and blow up.  Dinner is never good when it’s laced with shrapnel and blisters.

    In the pressure cooker that is American politics and culture in 2019, we are careening perilously close to a blowout.  The news outlets keep reminding us that acrimony and rage are at all-time highs in American society, and their constant fulmination of this message only pours more fuel on that fire.  This sells papers and gets clicks on-line, so the media and those who crave attention promulgate this stridency to their own purposes, while society gets itself into a collective lather.

    What we need is a good laugh at ourselves.  We need a pressure relief valve.  A mental and emotional enema.

    We have a propensity to conflate any immediate ‘crisis’ as the most critical one in history, blowing it out of all proportion.  We work ourselves into a frenzy of purpose, repeatedly pummeling the In Case Of Emergency Break Glass option.  Our escalation of the ‘crisis of the moment’ causes us to lose any sense of perspective, historically or otherwise.

    This is where the editorial cartoonist becomes an essential, critical part of the dialogue.  Using elegantly simply art skills and a sharp wit, they frame the hot issues of the day into moments of laughable perspective, lampooning the monsters we are so prepared to fight to the death.  Injecting humor, especially satire (humor’s highest form) into these ultra-tense situations serves as a trip-lever, relieving the cranked-up intensity in a catharsis of honest laughter.

    It doesn’t matter what political or cultural viewpoint the cartoonist espouses; everyone’s sacred cow gets hacked up, but harmlessly and humorously.  And let’s face it – sometimes the sacred cow we most need butchered is our own, figuratively speaking.  It is easy to become demagogic in the land of free expression.  We all tend to take ourselves too seriously, especially Congresswomen from NYC, teenage girls from Sweden, and orange-haired Oval Office occupants.  A good laugh at ourselves is essential from time to time, a gift from God, who doesn’t want us to take ourselves too seriously.

    Surprised?  ‘A cheerful heart is good medicine, but a crushed spirit dries up the bones.’ (Proverbs 17:22, NIV).

    I was raised in a politically aware home, where values were applied as a template of interpretation over the daily news.  Things could get pretty intense, even if there was consensus among the family members (us against them mentality).  In the pages of the daily paper, I found relief from all this smothering angst over global issues beyond my control.  The syndicated editorial cartoonists the paper carried were masterful at reducing so many of these ‘apocalyptic’ worries to laughable caricatures, finding some absurd aspect of the person or situation and amplifying it out of all proportion, intentionally.  The absurdity was the heart of the humor, giving us a needed break from all the hand wringing and sabre rattling long enough to reset our sense of priority.  Seeing things in a ridiculous light can be incredibly liberating.

    Names like Peters, MacNelly, Fitzpatrick, Oliphant, Ramirez, Horsey, Auth, Steadman, Sheneman, Handelsman, Cagle and so many others have used their sharp pens and sharper wit to lance the boils of American anxiety, bringing instant relief.  Their medium stands alone in its single-panel ability to condense a profound concern to its simplest elegant expression….and then put clown shoes on it.

    It is a palpable reminder to not take ourselves too seriously, but to step back and remember that we are all a bit absurd, and whatever ‘apocalyptic’ issue is staring us down today…well, we’ve been here before.  And we will find a way through it, together.  As long as we remember to laugh once in a while.  Honest laughter is the evidence of hope.  Our real future depends on it.

    The views here are those of the author and not necessarily Daily Surge. 

    Image by Nicolás Borie Williams from Pixabay
    Nathan Clark is a conservative commentator who resides with his wife in New Hampshire. He is passionate about preserving the vision of our nation’s Founders and advancing those tried and true principles deep into America’s future. His interests range broadly from flyfishing, cooking and shooting to pro sports, gardening, live music and fine-scale modeling.


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