I’m not much of an optimist. It’s a little hard to be optimistic when, for example, the U.S. Senate can’t pass an “anti-lynching law.” (As if there are two sides to the “lynching issue.”)
I agree with the late iconic George Carlin who said, “Some see the glass half full, others see it half empty, I see the glass as twice as big as it needs to be.” But despite the pandemic that we almost seem to forget even though infections are up in 21 states, and the barbarous murder of unarmed and handcuffed George Floyd, I’m optimistically sensing a real change in the air. (And no, I’m not referring to pepper spray.)
Most humor doesn’t come from optimism but rather is often an antidote to how dreadful things can be. My favorite comedians of all-time, Lenny Bruce, Richard Pryor and Carlin, were not optimists, they were realists.
If this were a “normal” week, (whatever that has meant for the past 3+ years) I might joke, “Donald Trump’s new campaign slogan is ‘Trump 2020 – What More Do You Have to Lose?’” Or, “‘Bunker Boy’ Trump set a new personal Twitter record with 200 tweets in one day, 74 in one hour and 468 in one week.”
Some psychiatrists have described Trump’s Twitter tantrums as “a compulsive need for excessive admiration.” Off the record, White House insiders admit they “Try to keep Trump busy with other things,” which might be okay if Trump were five-years-old.
And yet I’m happy to report I have a more hopeful feeling about the future of society and the planet. In response to George Floyd’s brutal murder, people have protested in unprecedented numbers all over the globe, in all fifty states and here in Santa Monica. That, and one reaction to the pandemic that came from New Zealand, seemed to spark my mini-metamorphosis.
My friend and fellow columnist Charles Andrews E-mailed me, “The Realisation” (New Zealand spelling) which is a poem turned into an uplifting 4-minute video. It’s a charming bedtime story told to his young son in a time after the coronavirus. Tomas Roberts, a spoken word poet from London, never imagined it would go viral, no pun intended, but with 18,000,000 views it has. (Nor did he imagine Jake Gyllenhaal, would insist he turn the poem into a book this fall.)
Then I heard from another friend, Sheila Laffey, an Adjunct Professor at SMC, to check out a world-wide zoom Webinar on May 30th entitled “SNL For the Global Peace Tribe.” (Until then, I thought Webinar was a small country in the South Pacific.) The spiritually enlightened gathering included prominent activists from all over the planet. I was moved by their hopeful passion, especially Deepak Chopra’s. He eloquently described what type of new world we could have after the pandemic, and racial justice reform and so many other human created crises, saying, “If you’re alive now you are made for this.” (Begging the question, could this be the moment?)
Chopra also noted that ecologists and scientists speculate that if all the insects, bees, viruses and bacteria suddenly disappeared, life on the planet might last five years. But if humans were to disappear for five years, the planet would flourish. (What does that tell us?) Actually, we’re already seeing signs of the ecosystem repairing itself during the pandemic in that the air and water are visibly cleaner and animals are thriving.
Another uplifting experience was a 100% peaceful protest in Venice weeks ago, attended by seemingly thousands of primarily young people of all ethnicities marching against systemic racism in America. These almost spiritual marches have been going on for so long now it feels like we can’t return to old ways. (Not great for comedy writers but a huge improvement for the human race.)
Among the most gratifying signs of hope were how many Santa Monicans responded selflessly after the horrific rioting and looting. Flocks of volunteers donated time and labor to help in the cleanup. And, as seen on Instagram, “Paintthecitypeaceful,” has done a terrific job of turning tragedy into inspiring art.
The group has transformed hundreds of sheets of plywood installed all over our city during the riots to protect businesses from broken windows and looting into messages and art encouraging peace and unity in ending racism. Borrowing from Bob Dylan, it definitely feels like “The Times They Are Changing.” (Consider that NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell said, “We were wrong, we should have listened” and NASCAR just banned confederate flags from all its events!)
Props to two Samohi alumni, muralist Lindsay Sochar and her military veteran boyfriend, Z Bo, my neighbor. And thanks to visual artists Cali Rockowitz and Jordan Martinez for their tireless efforts to restore our community. (And also helping bail me out with this column!)
Please Google “SNL for the Global Peace Tribe,” which has Webinars every Saturday. On Instagram check out “Paintthecitypeaceful.” On Facebook go to: Cali Rockowitz Art. Jack is at firstname.lastname@example.org