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Life as performance art

Life as performance art

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By Fr. G. Corwin Stoppel

The name June Foray may not trip off our tongues, but we all knew her voice. She died in late July at age 90. During her career as a voice actress, she brought to life “Granny” and a host of other characters on those wonderful Warner Brothers cartoons we watched after school and on Saturday mornings.

Foray was best known as “Rocky the Flying Squirrel” “The Adventures of Rocky and Bullwinkle,” which ran from 1959 and 1964. Even if many of us were too young to truly appreciate the cartoon series’ humor, we laughed at the antics of “Moose and Squirrel” as their archenemies, Boris and Natasha, called them. We may not have realized how the shows used humor to satirize harsh realities of the Cold War.

Think back a moment. Soviet leader Nikita Khrushchev was pounding a shoe on his United Nations desk, threatening to bury us. The John Birch Society was sniffing out “commies, pinkos, and fellow travelers” everywhere — including our schoolteachers.

We squeaked past blowing ourselves up during the Cuban Missile Crisis, Vietnam was just starting, President Kennedy was murdered in Dallas and it was the rise of the Civil Rights Movement.

All that was daily fare on the news brought to us by Walter Cronkite and Huntley-Brinkley. Our parents were worried for our future, and for good reason.

Maybe they also smiled, if just a little, when they saw us living in our own vicarious worlds where good triumphed over evil. Maybe they found humor in the stereotypes of the incompetent Boris, Natasha and “Fearless Leader,” just as, when they were children two decades earlier, they had mocked Mussolini, Tojo and Hitler.

No weapon is stronger than humor when it comes to freedom. It doesn’t matter if it’s a schoolyard bully, mean girl or foreign dictator. Laugh at them and we start whittling them down to a size we can handle. If there is one thing a bully doesn’t like, it is being mocked and subjected to ridicule.

We need humor like never before. In the 1930s, Will Rogers watched as Europe’s and Asia’s dictators were on the rise, and pointed out that as long as we can poke fun at our own politicians, this nation would be all right. “In Russia,” he warmed, “humor gets you a one-way train ticket to Siberia.”

Maybe our world needs less tweeting and more laughter. As long as the mortality rate remains steady at 100 percent, we might as well have extra laughs when we can get them.