This is not, broadly speaking, a joyful era.
Americans are at each other’s throats, for not-good-enough reasons. The Supreme Court is deadlocked. Congress is craven and paralyzed.
Our choices for president are sociopathic, socialist or socially awkward. Half the electorate is more interested in finding identity in a tribe than in picking someone responsible to lead the free world.
Globalism is putting us all out of jobs, and global warming is baking the planet. It is, it would seem, the worst of times.
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Still, maybe it’s age. Maybe it’s the internet. Maybe it’s desperation. But between the cracks of all the bad news, joy seems to be stepping up far more than it used to.
It was there on the sidewalk the other night as I walked in the warm evening air to meet my husband.
It was in the stall at the farmers market that sold me a pound of perfect cherries, and next to me on the couch as we watched “Game of Thrones” with old friends.
And I’m pretty sure I’m not the only one lowering the bar, joywise. What else could explain the resurgence of adult leagues for childhood games such as dodgeball? Or that “Keanu” movie starring a kitten?
And how about that mom in the Chewbacca mask whose video of herself, just sitting alone in her car laughing while the mask makes Chewbacca noises, has gotten more than 150 million views on Facebook?
Say what you will about the psyche of the American public, that woman knew joy when she saw it, and she relished it.
That millions of others relish these things too undercuts the conventional wisdom that we want to be fractured. As “individual” as we claim to be, it also is in our DNA to be collective.
A big part of us yearns to cheer together for the graceful athlete, to applaud the virtuoso, to whistle past the graveyard in unison. There’s more to life than being used by Donald Trump, or scolded by Bernie Sanders, or begged by Bill Clinton to see past the guardedness of the wife who spent her life making the trains run while he got to be the fun one.
There’s also joy. And I wish we would let it speak more broadly. If we were to knock off the tribal drumming, it might tell us that this, like so many other difficult eras, is also in some ways the best of times.
Shawn Hubler is a columnist for the Sacramento Bee.