Making us think
Observer Viewpoint | Wednesday, November 2, 2005
I wonder if Ashley Williams, the non-Catholic, minority, liberal-minded female who was outraged by the events surrounding her Halloween weekend [Oct. 31 Letter to the Editor], would laugh at a man falling on a banana peel. Would it matter if it were a white man or a black man? If we cannot control the bad things around us, the human condition forces us to laugh at them. To quote “Sullivan’s Travels,” a 1941 film, from a time when few people were laughing, “There’s a lot to be said for making people laugh. Did you know that that’s all some people have? It isn’t much, but it’s better than nothing in this cockeyed caravan.”
A hurricane has no motivations and no targets. To impute such on an act of God is to try to understand the ineffable. I’m sure the students involved had no intention of mocking the grave losses people suffered or the lives lost forever. Would you have been as upset if they had parodied the less recent tsunami or the Kashmiri earthquake? I think an earthquake would be a hard costume to achieve, myself.
As regards Williams’ critique of the student stand-up show, I can only say as a former performer on the Legends Stage that I not only find the joke she mentions funny, but highly topical to the Notre Dame crowd. How many people have noted this self-segregation of the dining halls and wondered why it exists? How many people, conservative and liberal alike, have wondered if it is a sign of something wrong?
By parodying the things we think are wrong in life, we are doing the work of comedy: Pointing out the silly stereotypes and habits of humanity to help wash them away. May we all be as bold as that comedian, to point out what each of us sees or saw every mealtime and bring it front and center. Those students, Williams, were laughing at their own condition, knowing the awkwardness of a segregation they did not create and probably would not keep. Let yourself laugh along with them. Laughter is the best way to change a person’s heart.
Jared Rizzialumnusclass of 2005Nov. 1