Dark Humor

This past week in the United States, many terrorist warnings were issued for the country and specifically, for the New York area. The warnings ranged from nuclear reactors to airplanes, trains, and boats, until it trickled down to scuba divers! To put it mildly, all of this frayed many nerves. Human beings are a strange bunch….they can handle stress and anxiety to a point, until they start to find unusual ways to grapple with it. What is emerging in the United States post 9/11, and for that matter, in other parts of the world, is something called “dark humor.” To give an example of dark humor, here is a quote from a stock trader on Wall Street when asked why the market was rising in the face of bad news. He replied, “Well we all know we’re going to get nuked, but in the meantime, let’s have a party and make some money!” Another example of dark humor was chuckled by a local news anchor, who said, “Let me get this straight….there are all these warnings coming in every day…..so tell me, at what point am I supposed to just kill myself?” Dark humor is becoming a new pastime that Americans are expressing to cope with the current crisis. A friend of mine recently mentioned to me, “Jennifer, things are so bad that at some point you just have to laugh, because it feels like you’re in the middle of a horror movie.” Tom Ridge, the Homeland Security Czar appointed by President Bush, has a color coded system in place to let us know the level of the warning. Well, as you can imagine, this too has fallen victim to dark humor. “What does yellow mean? Why are we permanently at yellow/neutral when perhaps we should be at full red/alert? And how bad does it have to get before we reach red/alert?” some are asking. A radio talk show host reported over the airwaves the other day that if he hears that the nuclear reactor near him is under attack, he will casually walk out onto his porch, sit down, open a nice bottle of wine, and wait for the prevailing winds!! Dark humor, yes? These are the kinds of thoughts that Americans are sharing with each other to ease the tension.

Post 9/11 we are discovering new ways to use our imaginations to cope with daily life. In some strange way, by joking at times about the situation, it helps us get in touch with our humanity. I do believe if the situation continues, it will only be a matter of time before comedy clubs specializing in dark humor start popping up. It’s gotten to the point in the good old US of A that when you turn off your television for a couple of hours, you cringe when it’s time to turn it back on. This past week the Brooklyn Bridge itself had a warning posted against it. Now please tell me, what on earth would anybody get out of blowing up the Brooklyn Bridge?? This past Friday it was announced by the authorities to keep an eye out for scuba divers coming on shore….a friend of mine who heard the warning looked at me and said, “What’s next? dolphins??” With all the warnings that have been issued recently, we have now just about covered every form of attack that is possible on humankind. I’m sure clever minds can add a few more to the list, if challenged.

Truly, terrible things have happened here in America. Loss of life is never funny. But to move forward, we have to find ways to handle it. Dark humor is just one of those ways. Behind each joke of dark humor are tears. We cry, we laugh, we live.

Keep living,
love, Jennifer Avalon
© 2002 Jennifer Avalon

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