Laughter: It’s still the best medicine

Frank and I recently visited with Mom, who lives in New Jersey. I was looking forward to seeing her, but not to the long, torturous ride.
Frank and I share the driving, and when we left Jamesport, he was at the wheel. Typically, he had the radio tuned to Jimmy Buffett’s Radio Margaritaville. Somewhere in Queens, I became antsy and started fiddling with the radio dials. I inadvertently switched out of Sirius satellite radio to a talk radio station.
I’d never listened to talk radio before and, frankly, I was curious. Yikes! A caller was ranting about a variety of issues. But it was the talk show host who shocked yours truly — and I don’t shock easily. The host began pontificating in such a manner that he, too, became wildly agitated. Soon the caller and the talk show host were shouting over one another.
I was speechless. When I looked over at Frank, he had “that look” and asked, “Ceil, what’s up with these guys?”
I remained uncharacteristically silent.
What we heard was unsettling. First, let me be clear: I’m not suggesting that all talk radio programs spew hate, fear, intolerance, misquotes and unsubstantiated facts. But truly, folks, this tirade was particularly menacing.
There’s no doubt about it, people are angry, and why not? We Americans are inundated with economic misery: unemployment, lost homes, lost jobs and a loss of confidence.
Natural and environmental disasters have darkened our doors. The Gulf Coast was hit hard in April with the BP oil spill and, recently, we revisited the continued devastation in New Orleans brought on by Hurricane Katrina.
There seems to be a prevailing free-floating angst that’s both political and spiritual and ,folks, it’s decimating our country. I’m not an expert, but common sense tells me that we are dealing with all-or-nothing thinking.
Left-leaning folks blame government for not doing enough, while right-leaning folks blame the government for doing too much. Regrettably, those with moderate viewpoints are not heard over the din of angry voices.
Ah, but here’s the rub: Anger is as contagious as the flu.
America is rife with ridiculous accusations. For instance, those on the extreme right are firm in their belief that President Obama is secretly a Muslim while others equate him with Adolf Hitler. C’mon! Stop drawing mustaches on posters and read the history of the Third Reich. This type of nonsensical behavior should be considered grossly offensive to everyone.
Folks on the extreme left have labeled those on the right as war-mongering, greedy capitalists who cut school programs and dodge taxes. They’re also pigeonholed as insensitive, xenophobic and racist. This just ain’t so.
Among the conspiracy theories that abound, the notion that the Bush White House knew about the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks beforehand is pure lunacy.
Lordy, lordy! Such allegations have me pondering whether we, as a nation, have tipped the scales and gone insane.
Looking for someone to blame is not the solution. We live in a complex world, so how can one-dimensional thinking be a viable option? For the sake of our country, we need to move beyond our differences. Can we strive to pry ourselves out of our extreme corners and admit that perhaps our presuppositions, prejudices and biases are wrong? Can we combine our talents and recapture a hopeful attitude?
I’m keenly aware that the solution to our divisions is not this simple. However, I recently read that laughter is the shortest distance between two people. Maybe we ought to take a collective breath and lighten up. Physiologists tell us that in times of travail, it’s important to maintain a sense of humor. In fact, laughter is the body’s way of reducing anxiety, aggression and anger.
Sounds good to me. And singer/songwriter Jimmy Buffett concurs. He observed, “If we couldn’t laugh we would all go insane.”
Hmm. Do you think that’s what happened?
Ms. Iannelli is a resident of Jamesport.