The Daily Tar Heel

Serving the students and the University community since 1893

Friday February 26th

Playful comments help stabilize democracy

In response to Kevin Lampley’s letter on Sept. 29, “Recent coverage has ignored statewide events,” I wondered if our political culture confronts a more serious problem — a collective loss of humor.

The letter categorized Gov. Bev Perdue’s Cary Rotary luncheon comments as “un-American.” The ability to recognize a joke — even if you do not find it funny — helps to stabilize democracy. Jokes are all about consensus building and, yes, they can hurt people, but Perdue’s comments were of a playful nature.

In 1938, the Dutch historian Johan Huizinga lamented the uncompromising radicalism of National Socialism. Huizinga felt it was the playful politics of liberal democracy that eased tensions and encouraged a spirit of fellowship among the bitterest of political opponents. As Huizinga put it, “it is the decay of humor that kills.” Let’s try to keep our political playground open.

Michael Mulvey
Graduate Student

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