Everyone knows April 1 is April Fool’s Day, twenty-four hours of zany (hopefully fun) pranks. When I worked on the Rebellaire and the Campus Corral (my junior high and high school newspapers), we took that occasion to poke good-natured and always respectful fun at our favorite teachers. There might be a cartoon of the senior English teachers in witch’s robes and hats stirring a cauldron and changing Double, double, toil and trouble. . .since we studied Shakespeare in their classes. One year we posed our most dignified teachers around a table in the teachers’ lounge with cards and poker chips in front of them and stray Aces tucked into collars and sleeves. Outrageous announcements from the principal and vice-principal, perhaps tinged with a little wishful thinking, found their way into print. We knew our limits (and our supervisors’ eagle eyes and slashing red pen), but I doubt we’d have crossed the line even if we could.
It disturbs me today that we live in an anything goes world. No one is immune to being taunted and ridiculed--celebrities, children, political and religious figures, even people with physical and mental challenges or those who have experienced terrible tragedy. Audiences roar with laughter as late-night hosts spew over the airwaves what no one would have whispered publicly thirty, forty, fifty years ago. It seems the more outrageous and bizarre the monologue, the more hilarity it generates.
One wonders why. Is it the lure of attention? The meanness of spirit which seeks to wound another human being? Could it possibly be. . .money? It’s probably a combination of all three.
My father used to say, “It doesn’t cost anything to be nice.” And it doesn’t, at least beyond biting one’s tongue sometimes and smiling when you’d rather glare.
So my grandchildren are growing up in a society where they have no real role models outside their home. I think of the outstanding public school teachers and Sunday School teachers who, while they’d have admitted to being far from perfect, strove to instill in us kindness and integrity by example.
My mother used to caution me, “Fools’ names and fools faces [are] always seen in public places.” Is this country increasingly populated by “fools”?
I tell my granddaughters,
Please understand--there are a million words I’d love to take back. . .a thousand things I’d love to do better. . .but, please God, don’t let me be so mean and small of spirit I intentionally seek to wound a fellow human being for personal gain.I wish today’s children a kinder, gentler tomorrow. And that’s not an April Fool’s joke.