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Posts tagged ‘Humor’

Impressions

A potential employer has called me in for an interview. I really want this job. What will I wear? I have a business suit for this purpose, and worn with an understated top, modest jewelry and matching accessories, it is the appropriate uniform for the occasion. I will appear to be a responsible, sober, capable person who takes this job seriously. This is not the time to express my preference for a roomy sleep shirt and bare feet. I know how to make a good impression.

Tattooed guy on the A-train.

Tattooed guy on the A-train. © JustHavingFun

How we are exposed to things creates impressions. The frequency, the popularity, the acceptability seem to grow proportionately. I remember a time when a boy with an earring was a rarity, a rebellious type to be avoided. Now? I’ve seen guys with dangly earrings as well as holes as big as quarters in their lobes. And tattoos? I’d heard stories growing up about crusty, tattooed sailors. It wasn’t considered to be suitable for nice folks. Now they’re all the rage.

First impressions count—it’s not just a worn adage. The subtlety of impressions cannot be emphasized enough. They get worn into our brains, drip by drip, until an impression is formed. Like water on a rock, with time enough, a path can be carved. The Grand Canyon proves this theory.

Impressions are also formed by the media. What we consume as humor and entertainment become realities. Like mouthy, bratty, know-it-all kids. Remember the fantasy of Mayberry on The Andy Griffith Show? I can’t imagine Opie being mouthy without consequences. Or Richie on The Dick Van Dyke Show. Nowadays children on sitcoms mouth off and are bratty, and that is considered normal. Not in my house, honey. If my kids had been as fresh as those on TV, they’d have had what to be upset about.

SNL Screenshot

Screenshot. © NBC

What happens when the media steps past a societal boundary, more than just a breach of good taste? Saturday Night Live last week ran a skit that I thought pushed the boundary too hard. Here’s what I sent to NBC as a comment on the show:

DESPICABLE. That’s the “World’s Most Evil Invention” skit from 5/20/17. Child molestation must NEVER be exploited for humor, never mind ironic use. Yes, the behavior is really, really evil, but it’s no laughing matter. When SNL uses child abuse for humorous purposes, it diminishes the horror of the act, the level of sickness it embodies. Child sexual abuse should be verboten, like rape, making fun of handicapped people, or even saying the “N-word.” Push the envelope, but use restraint.

There are certain things we should not joke about or hint at in humorous settings. I draw the line at child sexual abuse. I shudder to think that this evil act can be made as acceptable as tattoos. I don’t think I’m over-reacting. The more people are exposed to things, the more “normal” they seem and the less sensitive they become to those topics. I like to think that we are a society that wants to be good and do right. In order to do that, we need to make the right impression on ourselves. Think about that. How do we do that?

The media have a lot of power. As I’ve said before, whether you love him or revile him, Donald Trump is the President of the United States. Most of the photos I’ve seen of the President show a snarling, warped visage. The camera seems always trained on him mid-grimace. Perhaps if the media were to show him smiling, some of the rancor would diminish.

Likewise, if the media were to treat actions like rape, sexual abuse, sexual trafficking, child molestation, death by gunshot, and other acts of horror seriously and not gloss over them, perhaps there would be more attention paid to the plight of the victims.

Just saying. I’m really worked up about this topic and there is no room for humor about it. There are some things that cannot become commonplace or humorous.

Mikvah Mysteries

Mikvah Entrance in Djerba Tunisia-Avi AlpertMikvah Entrance in Djerba Tunisia
(by Avi Alpert, used under CC BY-NC-ND 2.0)

I recently read a blog post by Lieba Rudolph, “What Makes the Mikvah So Mysterious?” She discusses misconceptions and perceptions of the ritual immersion that married Jewish women perform after their monthly menstruation cycle has finished.

My take on what makes the mikvah so mysterious is just that: mystery. Our secular culture infantilizes sexuality and our holy Jewish culture keeps it hidden and refined. Modern Americans do not sit easily with mystery and the sublime. We want facts, entertainment and unfortunately, enjoy titillation. Jewish children are not educated about mikvah until they are ready for marriage… or in the playground, if at all.

How can something associated with the duties of the High Priest be associated with family life? After all, in school they learn about mikvah in the context of the services of the Holy Temple. Readings in the Torah mention immersion numerous times. Any connection with marriage does not compute. I’m not an educator or a Rabbi so I do not have suggestions how–or if–to introduce the topic to our young adults with the needed sensitivity and seriousness. But I think there is a place for that type of education so we raise a community of people committed to marriage and not, G-d forbid, opting to choose divorce or promiscuity.

The real issue relies upon inculcating our children and immersing them in authentic Jewish culture (not low humor, nor bagels and lox jokes of the Borscht Belt). TV Jews are secular ones who can’t differentiate between customs and merchandising. Any Torah-observant (i.e., Orthodox) Jews in the media seem to be strange-minded, oddball characters, with quaint customs, or criminals with misconduct unbecoming anyone let alone a G-d-fearing Jew. The home atmosphere is important because we cannot shield them from outside influences. The more aware they become of how irreverently and ridiculed authentic Jewish practice is presented in modern secular media, the more they will value our way of life.

The mystery is part of us, and part of our connection with G-d.

 

 

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