Wednesday, January 20, 2016


     Serial liar Hillary Clinton had Special Access Program information in her unsecured email server. Rabidly left-wing Website Salon has denounced Senator Marco Rubio for his Catholic faith. Widely beloved Sarah Palin has endorsed Donald Trump for president. Every major stock-market index is tumbling from “correction” toward “contraction,” with “depression” on the lips of many. While the “unemployment rate” has been reported as 5%, 94 million working-age Americans remain out of the “official” work force. Our northern border is being enforced against a company that wants to ship us oil while our southern border isn’t being enforced at all. The Obama Administration has accepted and defended the humiliation of ten members of the U.S. Navy so as not to jeopardize a “deal” the government of Iran has already violated. And the New York Rangers are playing barely .500 hockey.

     Those are just the “big ticket” items. I could go on for five thousand words, but it’s all stuff any Gentle Reader of Liberty’s Torch already knows about.

     A few days ago I got an email that made reference to the “Conversations” pieces that occur here now and then. My correspondent suggested that I post them to indicate that despite all the social, economic, and political Sturm und Drang, something approximating normal life persists for the great majority of Americans. Actually, that’s not the reason. I post them because they made me laugh, and I assume that my readers like to laugh as well. God knows we can all use it. When the news is as relentlessly dark and foreboding as it’s been lately, a few laughs are a good tonic for the soul.

     Back during the first of George W. Bush’s two presidential terms, there was good news interleaved with the bad news. Sometimes the good news – or what we took to be good news, anyway – actually predominated. It was possible to read the papers, or the news Websites, or watch the evening TV news, and say to oneself that while there are terrible things in progress, still, things aren’t entirely terrible. Indeed, they might even be getting better. At that time as during the Reagan years, Americans largely supplied their own laughs. They certainly didn’t need the leavening provided by the little bursts of whimsy and wordplay my wife and I exchange semi-regularly.

     Ever forced yourself to eat a cake that didn’t rise?

     I’ve recently been suffering attacks of what I sometimes call Silo Syndrome: a powerful desire to find a remote retreat somewhere, fortify it to the hilt, and huddle there with my wife and my animals until I succumb to the end of the world or terminal crankiness, whichever comes first. (Supplies are limited. Personal checks not accepted. Sorry, no C.O.D. Void where prohibited by law. Employees of this website not eligible. We are an Equal Opportunity Offender.) Unfortunately, that’s not a realistic prospect for an aging retiree with several serious health problems, and anyway, my wife would never agree to it if we couldn’t bring her entire collection of shoes. But the impulse is real, and now and then has come near to overwhelming me. From what I read on other websites, I’m not the only sufferer in the DextroSphere.

     Silo Syndrome is one of the natural consequences of the sense that things are sliding down the slippery slope to Shitville, and there’s nothing one can do about it. The sense might be illusory, of course, but the consequences of it are nevertheless compelling.

     The countermeasure is laughter, however administered or evoked. Jokes. Puns. Harmless pranks. General horseplay. Frivolity. Cat videos. The zany impulse indulged in an unguarded moment. Laughter might not be able to cure cancer, but it can make the chemotherapy a bit easier to endure.

     In Stranger in a Strange Land, Robert A. Heinlein had Jubal Harshaw note that the greater part of human neurosis can be traced to our unhealthful habit of wallowing in the troubles of billions of strangers: i.e., immersing ourselves in the news. He had a point. There’s precious little in the news to laugh at or about. But until we break that nasty habit, finding and enjoying what there is to laugh at is one of the most important things we can do, both for ourselves and our society.

     I exhort you to laugh. I exhort you not merely to seek out and find the risible and the ludicrous, but to create as much of it as you can. Even if it sometimes makes you feel like an idiot. As anyone over the emotional age of five will know, every last one of us behaves like an idiot from time to time. Yet if properly appreciated, those can be the most heart-lifting moments of all.

     Make others laugh.
     Good people love to laugh.
     They congregate around occasions for laughter.
     They will often reciprocate by making you laugh.

     Yes, the world is going to hell in a handbasket. Yes, the bottom of the handbasket is being gnawed away by giant rats. Yes, flesh-devouring zombies await us below. And unless you’re Christ come again, there’s precious little you can do about it.

     Americans were once globally known for their smiles and their robust sense of humor. I once wrote that an American will usually judge any new thing according to whether he can eat it, wrap a game around it, or laugh at it. Given the breadth of my acquaintances, I hold that that’s still the case...or that it could be.

     I have no idea who wrote this old verse:

     Laugh! And the world laughs with you.
     Weep, and you weep alone.
     For this sad old Earth
     Must borrow its mirth
     But has troubles enough of its own.

     ...but whoever he was, he gave us a gospel truth.

     With that, I’m off to Mass. Later, Gentle Reader.


Historian said...

Fran, with respect there is much that can be done. We may not be able to stop the coming upheaval, but we can prepare for it, and we can, through reaching out to others, plant seeds and educate others so that we can shape or at least influence the aftermath. Laughter is great medicine, too!

Lastly, evil is stupid. We are going to win this battle in the war of ideas, as long as we don't give up.

Anonymous said...

At age 81, I've seen a lot of the good, the bad and the indifferent. But my wrinkles came from grinning, so I figure I must have been doing something right. :-) During my bout with serious cancer, back some twelve years ago, I decided that playing stand-up comic was a lot more fun when in the oncology clinic than being all sad and miserable.

Consider the opening line of Sabatini's "Scaramouche". That always seemed to fit me...


Unknown said...

If you've the urge to merge, then give birth to mirth
Since of such there's a serious dearth.
Teach the value of gluttony and girth
Feed your face with smiles, for all it's worth.

And if you demur, recall that on the other hand, a thumb.

Unknown said...

If a lunatic is a terse term for a moon quake,
is a Francis W. Porretto tirade [see FWP's 'More Pearls of Expession' which follows], a rubbery patch angrily applied to a corrupting and curdling world?

Reg T said...

When I worked as charge nurse for the graveyard shift on the Psych/PTSD unit of our VA hospital, I received what I believe was the nicest compliment ever: I was told by several of my shift-mates that they liked working with me because my sense of humor made it fun. Some of the veterans who were patients made similar comments.

Not much of a claim to fame, but it keeps me warm at night, next to the woman I love.