NewburyportNews.com, Newburyport, MA

December 4, 2012

A funny thing happened ...

As I See It
Robert Campbell

---- — Recently, I sent two of my latest essays to a friend in an assisted living community and she, in turn, shared them with friends. The essays concerned visiting two memorials to 9/11 and the other about our nation’s last great Senate. Leave it to friends to tell the “unvarnished truth,” however! They noted that in the closing comments it stated, “RDC ... believes that a sense of humor is essential.” Her friends pointed out that there was no humor in either essay. It was like that old advertisement,”Where’s the beef?”

I looked over many of my essays and they were so correct it pained me to acknowledge the fact. I’m going to try my best to find some humor in this “humorless” world, so bear with me. Recent news articles may have missed your gaze, but I’m always interested in vignettes, short descriptive sketches which might tickle your fancy or at least be informative.

In January, New Jersey passed a law whereby drivers can be fined for driving with “unrestrained” animals in the car. Dogs must be placed in harnesses and cats placed in a carrier and subsequently buckled in. This law would be totally unsatisfactory to Maxie, our daughter’s dog, who likes to sniff the fresh air while alternately looking out both back windows. New Jersey may not see drivers with pets on their laps or in the back of a pickup, but how does one harness fish in a bowl? TV news showed “mock” animals flying through the air like missiles as brakes were applied. Not a nice scene! Interesting is the fact that in N.J. humans are subject to a fine of $46 for not buckling up, whereas the fine for animals is $250 to $1,000. Where, oh where, is the equality of justice?

The Bottom Line periodical reported gun buying reached record levels in last year’s Christmas season. There were more than 1.5 million background checks of would-be buyers in December 2011, a record for a single month. Black Friday, the day after Thanksgiving, was the busiest day ever in gun-buying history, according to statistics from the FBI. No figures are in as yet for 2012, but based upon the trend, it promises to be “explosive.”

You better not cry, you better not pout, ‘cause Santa Claus may not be coming to town by sleigh, boat or helicopter if the residents of Santa Monica have their way again this year. In 2011, the “Christmas Controversy” became a heated argument over the space for religious (or non) messages. In an effort to be fair, the city held a lottery to assign 21 plots of display space and lo and behold, atheists won 18 spots. Christians who put up the Nativity ended with two spots and a Jewish group won a spot for a menorah. Unfortunately, this action is not playing out well nationally. “When is one person’s public creche (or Christmas tree or Santa decoration) another person’s offending object,” as the Los Angeles Times of Dec. 18, 2011 stated. The best of Christmas wishes would be the spirit of sharing, but that doesn’t appear to be the final act of “It’s A Wonderful Life” in Santa Monica.

Breaking news: A U.S. district judge ruled late November that a 60-year-old Christian Nativity scene at Santa Monica’s Oceanfront Park would not be allowed. He said it was not banned on religious grounds, but rather because it “destroyed the turf and obstructed the ocean views.” The decision will be appealed, but meanwhile the Grinch still lives in Santa Monica.

---

Robert D. Campbell, an essayist who lives in Newburyport, believes that a sense of humor is essential.