This Isn't Funny

Dear Readers,

For days now, I've been an emotional wreck. (I've been hiding it well.) (I think.)

This brinkmanship with North Korea has left me feeling scared, anxious, and—maybe worst of all—completely helpless. I feel this way now pretty much around the clock. Living in the Pacific Northwest, I feel, rationally or not, like we occupy the center of a bullseye—an attractive target for North Korean missiles. I can't remember feeling this existentially afraid, ever.

The fact that we have young children only compounds this, for obvious reasons.

At the same time—perversely, almost—I've watched life happen around me as usual. Especially online, it's surreal. It doesn't take a lot of browsing Facebook or, especially, scrolling through Twitter to feel whipsawed:

Here's a tweet about the latest reckless rhetoric from Trump; here's one on news that North Korea is targeting Guam; here's one asking "During speed workouts should you jog around or rest between intervals?"

This juxtaposition, pure terror alongside breezy "tips," has been driving me nuts. The dissonance is just too much to process.

That dissonance was threatening to send me over the edge. So I dealt with it in the only way I really know how—with humor. The result was a brief article that I published here yesterday morning, titled 5 Simple Running Tips That Don't Matter Anymore Because We're All Going to Die in a Nuclear War Maybe as Soon as This Week.

You know. Gallows humor.

It’s fine not to like something. What’s not fine is telling someone that the one way they’ve found to cope with a shitty, terrifying situation isn’t OK.

Writing that piece provided me a brief respite from the steady drip-drip of fear and dread. Judging from the response on social media, it did the same for many others. In this sense, I like to think, the article did double duty, acting not just to give individuals a bit of solace but also to reassure kindred spirits that they're not alone, that laughter is an acceptable way to cope with awful situations that are beyond our control.

Not everyone liked the article. This became clear after a Facebook page with a large following shared it. Among the comments (I'm paraphrasing):

  • There's nothing funny about this. / You shouldn't be joking about this.
  • Not necessary. / Uncalled for.
  • Nuclear war isn't funny.

I'm used to this sort of thing by now. With any given thing I write—especially the satirical stuff—X% of readers will like or love or LOL it; Y% won't; and Z% will respond with insults, contempt, or self-righteous indignation.

That's just how things break, and usually I can let it go. Well, most of it, anyway.

This time feels different. This time the "you shouldn't be joking" comments cut to the bone and I want to scream at each and every person telling me what I should and should not be writing, and what is and isn't funny. I want to tell them that it's fine not to like something, not to share someone else's sense of humor—what's not fine is telling someone that the one way they've found to cope with a shitty, terrifying situation isn't OK.

It is OK, I want to scream. For some of us, it's more than OK—it's crucial.

Instead of screaming, I decided to write this. Maybe those Z% of readers will read it. Maybe they won't. Either way, I feel a little better simply getting this off my chest, and maybe it will resonate with some of you.

And that, after all, is the reason I write in the first place.

Take care, everyone. Find relief where you can. Hang in there.

Yours Truly,