Aired March 26, 2011 on Dave’s Gone By. Youtube: Tsunami Tweet
Shalom Dammit, this is Rabbi Sol Solomon with a Rabbinical Reflection for the week of March 27th, 2011.
My congregation has been asking, “Rabbi, when are you gonna talk about Japan? It’s such a huge calamity, when will we hear your thoughts about the earthquake, the tsunami, the nuclear plant – where are your words of wisdom?
My dear friends, what can I say? A tragedy is a tragedy. What can a human being say about an event that is beyond the scope of human understanding? Granted, I’ll bet some World War II veterans are thinking, “At last! Pearl Harbor payback!” But if the world truly worked like that, the tsunami would have hit Berlin. Followed by a tornado, locusts, a polio epidemic and a fast-moving iceberg.
No, sometimes, as in Japan, these things just happen, and we can only guess at the motivations of HaShem and the universe. As the Yiddish phrase goes: men tracht, und gott lacht – man makes plans, God laughs.
And speaking of laughter, what I really wish to discuss in this Rabbinical Reflection is the overreactions to reactions to the disaster. People make a few bad jokes, and the wrath of political correctness is upon them.
I speak specifically of Gilbert Gottfried, beloved voice of the Aflac duck. He’s fired from that job because of his twitter tweets or, in his case, quacks. He makes a joke about breaking up with his girlfriend – but it’s okay because, as they say in Japan, another one will be floating by any minute.”
This is funny. It amuses me. But even if it didn’t, Gilbert Gottfried is not a psychologist; he’s not a scientist; he’s not a schoolteacher. He’s a comedian. And he’s a comedian best known for making another funny joke that bombed – about September 11th – and then saving the evening by telling yet another joke: “The Aristocrats” – the most vile, crude, sexually explicit, violent, vulgar, perverted, disgusting joke ever written. And if you want to hear it, give me a call on my cell `cause I have my own version, and it kills. Not to give it away, but in mine, the father brings in two camels and an enema bag. Priceless.
But getting back to Aflac: the insurance company does a lot of business in Japan, so when Mr. Gottfried let his fingers move a little faster than his brain, they gave his career a karate chop. Do I think this was justified? No, their judgment was just as poor as his. They may be contractually in the legal right, but can you imagine hiring anyone else to do the same quack? In fact, if it’s the same quack, Mr. Gottfried can sue for imitation. So it would have to be a different but similar quack.
I could do it: “Aflac.” “Aflac dammit!” It’s just not the same.
Nobody likes actor switcheroos. The only time it ever worked was when “Bewitched” got another Darrin, and that was only because Dick York was crippled by a bad back. I only hope, if they do hire another actor, Aflac’s campaign is crippled by a bad hack.
I’m all for sensitivity. To quote Mel Brooks, “I’ve got sensitivity coming out the blow-hole.” But I’m tired of political correctness running amok. From NPR to Charlie Sheen to that anti-Semite French designer. You can’t have a personal conversation anymore without somebody spitting it back to the media to make you look like a schmuck.
And jokes? To fire a comedian because he makes jokes? A comic understands better than anyone the natural tendency of humans to mix schadenfreude with “thank God it wasn’t me.”
I hope no one at my temple is so humorless as to target me if I make a joke or two. Even a shameful, tasteless joke. Such as: what is the only meal you can get in Japan? A big shake, then tuna melt.
That’s terrible! Or asking, why is a Japanese supermarket like a Taco Bell burrito? Neither has any actual food in it.
How dare I find humor in this! Or in a joke like – What do Japanese power-plant workers have in common with court-martialed U.S. Marines? They both got burned by the corps.
Or what’s the difference between a nuclear meltdown and cancer? Ehhh..about 15, 20 years.
Such dark, unfeeling jokes! Like: did you hear about all the Japanese went through a massive religious conversion. They were Buddhists; now they’re quakers.
Shame! Shame! How dare I ask: how many Japanese does it take to screw in a lightbulb? None. They don’t need light; they’re all glowing.
What a sick, heartless, joke that is. Or even worse: Why are they nicknaming the tsunami victims New Kids on the Block? Because they washed up overnight.
My friends, I do not tell these jokes to be funny. Thank goodness because, well, you’ve heard the jokes. I tell them in solidarity with Gilbert Gottfried and 50 Cent, and anyone else who saw yet another catastrophe in the world and went, “what can you do but laugh?”
Well, you can give to charity, you can write sympathy cards, you can help mobilize relief efforts; but still, you should be able to have a giggle. Because, like it or not, life is a cycle, and one day the joke will be on you.
This has been a Rabbinical Reflection from Rabbi Sol Solomon, Temple Sons of Bitches, in Great Neck, NY. Domo arigato.
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