What do you think when you see grown-ups playing, or dancing or even laughing in public? Let me guess. You think there’s something wrong with them. It’s rude, you think. Childish. A disturbance of the peace.
Normally, you’d be right. Except now. Now, it’s after 9/11, and the peace is deeply disturbed – everywhere, globally. And what those grown-ups are doing, playing, dancing, laughing in public is not an act of childish discourtesy, but a political act – a declaration of freedom, a demonstration that we are not terrorized, that terror has not won.
A Frisbee, in the hands of people in business dress in a public park, is a weapon against fear. A basketball dribbled along a downtown sidewalk, is a guided missile aimed at the heart of war. Playing with a yo-yo, a top, a kite, a loop of yarn in a game of cats’ cradle, all and each a victory against intimidation. Playing openly, in places of business, in places where we gather to eat or travel or wait, is a gift of hope, an invitation to sanity in a time when we are on the brink of global madness.
Yes, I admit, I am a professional advocate of public frolic. I am a teacher in the art of fun. I hawk my playful wares every time I get a chance, with every audience I can gather, war or peace.
But this is a unique moment in our evolution. America is no longer a free country. We are tied into a network of terror that crosses national boundaries with such consummate ease that we are as unsafe in our office towers as Israelis in a supermarket. We are at some kind of war against some kind of terror. We are none of us safe. We have to protect the peace.
And I believe that we have far more powerful weapons than any military solution can offer us. And I believe that those weapons can be found in any neighborhood playground or toy store.
"The human race has only one effective weapon --and that is laughter."
- Mark Twain