“Sickle Your Funny Bone,” was the title of a joke book that circulated among downtrodden Jews in the now-defunct Soviet Union. When times are tough laughter beats bitterness, anger, sullenness or depression as a response that leaves you ready to rejoin life when circumstances improve.
Since our matriarch, Sarah, laughed upon hearing the news that she would have a child and subsequently named her son Isaac (Hebrew for ‘he will laugh’) her descendants have always favored laughter as the best response to wildly irrational experiences. (Sadly, over the years, persecution has often been the illogical occurrence.)
I thought of this when I read a news story of adult Afghan asylum seekers claiming to be children in order to be admitted to England. Are you shocked to hear that after some of these “youth” are arrested for assault and murder, dental exams reveal them to be in their twenties? Rather than crying at Western countries’ deliberate blindness as they acquiesce in their own demise, I couldn’t help but laugh. I remembered the book, Her Father’s Daughter written by Gene Stratton Porter (1863-1924). Many fans of her more famous books, Girl of the Limberlost and Freckles are troubled by the anti-Japanese racism that pervades Her Father’s Daughter, published in 1921. The book features a “teenage” Japanese exchange student who turns out to be an adult spy sent to infiltrate himself into America.
Is it possible to see the internment of Japanese-Americans, strongly abetted by liberal icon Earl Warren, as a poorly executed and tragic policy, while recognizing that Japan was a serious enemy whose hostility was underestimated at great cost? Can we see England’s internment of Jewish-German refugees at places like Isle of Man as a poorly executed and tragic policy while recognizing that without England’s staunch and heroic stand against the Nazis, few of those interned would have survived the 1940’s? Has the “juvenile-zation” of our society been so complete that we think that real life mimics fairy tales? Cinderella =good; stepsisters = bad. Hansel and Gretel = good; witch = bad.
Ancient Jewish wisdom tells a story of four rabbis walking near the ruins of Solomon’s Temple, after its destruction. Three of the rabbis cry and mourn, while Rabbi Akiba laughs. Taken aback, the other rabbis question his reaction. He replies that seeing a fox wandering where the priests used to work confirms prophecies (Lamentations 5:18) that foretold such punishment for abandoning God, but at the same time allows us to believe prophecies promising renewal and rebuilding when returning to Him.
The insanities of our day, whether related to asylum seekers, to the idea that gender is assigned rather than inborn, the self-pitying infantilization of privileged college students or dozens of other examples are neither rational nor logical. The candidacies of Hillary, Bernie and Donald are mind-boggling, each for its own reason. We are reaping what we sowed by moving away from God’s directives over the past few decades. We can be moved to tears watching a great nation crumble or we can laugh, recognizing the ludicrousness in thinking that we could abandon His blueprint and thrive.