In order to attain the impossible, one must attempt the absurd. — Miguel de Cervantes

That which seems the height of absurdity in one generation often becomes the height of wisdom in another. — Adlai E. Stevenson

Stay hungry. Stay foolish.  — Steve Jobs

When someone calls you a fool, do you take offense? Or thank them for their perspicacity?

The wise among us realize that our foolish nature is something to be embraced — and as often as possible. The godmother of show business reinvention, Cher, says, “Unless you’re ready to look foolish, you’ll never have the possibility of being great.”

Elon Musk was thought to be a fool to the 10th power when he began an electric car company from scratch, and a reusable rocket ship company after that. Both agree that you must free the wild child inside you rather than timidly hide beneath a veneer of “respectability” if you want to make your mark.

So the question is, how will you embrace foolishness today? What pranks are you planning to shake up the status quo? What could you do tomorrow, next week, or next month that will have the office, locker room, or family den buzzing with conversation (after the shock wears off)? And is one day really enough to play the fool card, or should we advocate for more time to really explore this vitally important side of life?

At the very least, the United States could follow the example set by the city of Odessa in Ukraine.  Here, the first of April is a holiday, complete with a festival that includes a large parade, free concerts, street fairs and performances. Festival participants dress up in a variety of costumes and walk around the city playing pranks with passersby.*

Based on the ideas generated by the fools among us, one could argue that businesses giving their employees the day off to act foolishly could wind up generating the brainstorms that lead to a better planet for all. (Or a 22% boost in productivity, one of the two.) Let’s try it and see what happens.

*In 18th Century Scotland, they did Odessa one better, as the April Fools tradition was a two-day celebration, starting with “hunting the gowk” in which people were sent on phony errands (gowk is a word for cuckoo bird, a symbol for fool) and followed by “Tailie Day,” which involved pranks played on people’s backsides, such as pinning fake tails or “kick me” signs on them. Not that we want to give you any ideas.

 

The following is a special wild-card weekend editorial.

Ask any citizen of the United States and their answer will be the same: our country is in big trouble. Whether it’s white nationalists raising holy hell based on their latest conspiracy theories, billionaire technocrats deciding where to draw the line on free speech, or the gaping inequality between rich and poor growing more grotesque by the paycheck, our current situation looks grim indeed.

Nowhere is this disintegration of humanity more in evidence than in our nation’s capitol, stoked by a professional class of elected leaders too fearful of losing office to protect our democracy (recent post-riot speeches excepted). Given the lack of willingness to compromise displayed by party leaders and the ideological rift between the two dominant parties, some experts say America is heading towards a second civil war — quite possibly before the next presidential election.

So is there a more positive way for Washington to govern, for red and blue states to agree on the fundamentals, and for the populace to rally around their leaders for the good of all?  We say yes! And it involves the most American of objects, an oblong leather-bound ball with laces that unites the nation every Sunday (and in the case of wild card playoffs, Saturday as well).

Democrat, Republican, Libertarian, Green… whatever their party affiliation, Americans can’t get enough of football. We sacrifice things like better schools and public libraries to build massive stadiums to honor our local teams, and the high price of NFL game attendance — tickets average around $150 — doesn’t stop all classes of people from rubbing shoulders as they fill these fishbowls to near capacity each Sunday (not counting Covid season).

So how can we marry the much-adored game of football with the unwieldy, uncooperative workings of Washington? Simple. Form teams from the three branches of government along party lines. The winner of a game of football between D.C. Democrats and Republicans could decide if a bill winds up in the trash can or enshrined as a law. It could determine if the Supreme Court hears an argument against Arctic Drilling, or leaves it in the lower courts.  Even allowing for a few hours for the losing side to complain about the refereeing, the fate of any important issue could be decided in just a day or two!  

If laws were decided through football, the American people would be more engaged in civic processes than ever. For one thing, it would make the process of governing fun to follow. As much as we talk, text and tweet our opinions about politics, the day-to-day activities of each branch are extremely boring and nearly unwatchable. It feels like divine intervention when CSPAN leaves a poorly-attended House debate to cover a Presidential motorcade, but that’s not saying much. Now consider the audience for a show that combines sports talk with political commentary. Through the roof!

Right now, fans act like game day is a matter of life or death when all that’s at stake is their parlay bet on DraftKings. Think of how much they’ll care when their actual lives are on the line. “TOUCHDOWN! THAT MEANS MORE IMMIGRANTS, BABY! TAKE THAT, REPUBLICANS!”  They’ll be cheering for teams representing their city or state with an even greater passion, and with football as the focus, the American people would write and call their representatives more readily with complaints about their play-calling and performance, and show up en masse on election days to ensure their team has the best possible players. 

Football would also be a healthier outlet for our heightened aggression, the gridiron providing the perfect location to settle simmering feuds among our elected officials. Imagine Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez in the trenches against Ted Yoho, the Republican who called her a “f***ing bitch,” ready to unleash a pancake block when the ball is snapped. Or “Mean Mitch” McConnell responding to Biden campaign manager Jen O’Malley Dillon’s smear of the right with an open-field tackle to prevent a certain score. Just because the play has been whistled dead doesn’t mean the vendetta is settled. Who could resist watching Rashida Tlaib lay a late, cheap hit on Texas Republican Bill Flores, incurring a penalty of lower taxes and increased defense spending in the process? 

As more and more Congressional leaders age into dementia while holding on to their seats, football would also nudge the country to send younger, fresher talent to D.C. While the jobs of any of the three branches of government are demanding, they tend to exercise the brain a lot more than the body. With legislative business determined by playing smashmouth football, there would be need for field generals to exhibit strength in their quads and hamstrings, not just their ability to raise piles of PAC cash. So if players from the greatest generation can’t shape up, they’d quickly lose re-election to new blood that could ram their party’s legislative agenda into the end zone.  Meanwhile, the power players throwing, catching and running the ball would be freshmen representatives or baby-faced SCOTUS clerks. 

Given America’s insatiable appetite for the sport, football can bring the country together at a crucial time, fusing our love of scrambling quarterbacks and defensive schemes with the process of governing that will be embraced by conservatives and liberals alike. And then? We export our pigskin politics to the rest of the world — so our conflicts in the Middle East and our stalemates with Russia and China can all be solved peacefully on the gridiron, rather than the battlefield. 

Governance through football: May it lead us forward as one nation, indivisible, with liberty and slant patterns for all!

Special thanks to University of Michigan sports writer Jack Whitten for co-authoring this editorial.

A Muslim, a Catholic, an African American, a Jewish person, a Hispanic, a Wasp, a native American, a lesbian, an old woman, a gender-neutral person, a Chinese communist, a Russian oligarch, an Iranian mullah, a red state Republican and an Upper West Side Democrat walk into a bar…*

First of all, have you smiled? Or are you already getting your back up at the possibility that someone could be made fun of as this story unfolds? This is a litmus test to your future well-being. Can you survive in the cancel culture without cancelling yourself out?

Let’s start with the facts. Humans are the nuttiest creatures on the planet, and our ability to be “triggered” has become so sensitized that each of us now needs a personal injury lawyer just to leave our homes in the morning.  Our big brains and thin skins leave lots of time to parse language, self-select into special interest groups, and worry ourselves over slights both real and perceived. Each person would prefer it if other people agreed with their opinions. Naturally, each person would also like the freedom to render judgment on those who don’t.

Meanwhile, tribal hostility has been going on since homo sapiens first noticed differences in their appearance (“Hey, you’re not wearing the same bearskin as me. I’ll feel safer if I make fun of your outfit!”) and will no doubt continue despite corporate offices hanging up “Zero Tolerance” banners. Because humans love conflict, and deep down they love feeling superior to other humans, even when that superiority is based on how “caring” or “woke” they are!

If all the wars of history (current skirmishes included) were not proof enough of this idea, we salivate over professional sports, rooting for the home team to “kill” the opposition and raise the championship flag over our particular city of “winners.”

Meanwhile, the media and industry have been harnessing trigger words for years to gain audience share and exploit our interest in being wise vs. being gullible. We like being triggered when it’s “easy” or “secret” or “free.”  We go the other way when it’s “complicated” or “difficult” or “overpriced.”

SuperOptimists understand that people are different, and that these differences should be respected and celebrated. We also know that being overly sensitive is not an enjoyable way to go through life, as you become predictable and boring and whiny and nobody really wants to hang around you (except for other overly-sensitive people).

What’s the best solution? Pure, unadulterated laughter at the absurdity of it all, especially a good laugh at ourselves. We’re all fallible creatures, after all. Laughter is a tonic for all colors of skin, sexual preferences, religious convictions, or gender reclassifications. Laughter is one of the core emotional expressions of joy. Who has ever wanted to turn away more spiritual joy – besides ruthless dictators and antagonists in Charles Dickens’ novels, that is.

So if you think you’re special because you’re a “woke white,” go fuck yourself! And if you think you’re special because you’re multi-ethnic, or a member of a fringe group, or call yourself “they” instead of “he” or “she”,  go fuck yourself! As for us, writing this post with the superior attitude of know-it-alls, we’ll go fuck ourselves too!

See? Now we’ve all got something in common!

*As for the joke that started this column, the fact that there is no ending is what’s funny about it.  To us, anyway.

In the past six months, we’ve gone from world leaders saying there was no major threat from Wuhan to a rip-roaring pandemic. We’ve seen medical experts say that only the elderly and the immune-compromised were at risk, to learning of perfectly healthy people dying from the disease. We’ve been told that wearing a mask is unimportant, to wearing a mask is very, very, very important.

Now we’re seeing various governors arbitrarily decide to keep their states open in the face of increased outbreaks (but maybe they’ll close their states in a week or two, depending), while Wall Street shouts that the worst is over as 20 million people remain unemployed.

If ever there was a time to question authority, this is it.

Looking back, mass confusion is not a new phenomenon; it breeds a group of so-called “experts” who take to the airwaves to tell you what to do next.  From politicians to religious leaders, opinion columnists, business gurus, life coaches, self-help authors, movie critics: Here’s a set of professional guidance counselors that outwardly preach the ability to “live your best life” by following their expert tips.  Yet when in their homes with the shades drawn, they are just as confused, foul-mouthed, and imperfect as you are. 

Perhaps more so.  Scratching their backsides, yelling at their kids, sneaking glances at pornography, greedy for more wealth and power — just like everybody! Remember, despite their confident, toothy grins, these “experts” are not their book jacket photos.

So what is the “truth”?* Which facts do we embrace? Or is life just a lucky guess after all?

What they (and you) can learn from current events is to laugh at the human condition, chortle at our constant foibles, and re-think what makes you happy in the first place.

One way to start? Ignore everything an “expert” says on a cable news show. As Philip Stanhope, the 4th Earl of Chesterfield, put it: “Let it be your maxim through life, to know all you can know yourself, and never to trust implicitly the information of others.”

NOTE: The only advice you should follow is your own personal truth.  With just this secret alone, you are nine times more likely to find it! (Oh, and wear a mask. That should go without saying, but we’re saying it anyway.)

Democrats, take heart.

Sure, you’ve had a lousy week (to go with a lousy three years), with the Senate acquittal of your most hated foe coupled with the Iowa caucus debacle making you look like the political equivalent of the New York Knicks.

One might argue that this week we hit extreme Republicanism, with the Donald’s triumphant victory lap contrasted by Nancy Pelosi “tearing up” at the conclusion of Tuesday’s State of the Union.

So why is this great news for every blue stater out there? Take a moment to consider the “pendulum effect.” Also called the pendulum law, it was discovered by Galileo in 1602 and describes the regular, swinging motion of a pendulum by the action of gravity and acquired momentum. 

Much like Signor Galilei’s pendulum experiments, trends in politics have swung back and forth between opposite extremes for the last few decades. From George H.W Bush to Bill Clinton. From Clinton to George W. Bush. From W. to Barrack Obama. And from Barry to Don.  Man, that pendulum swings more than Benny Goodman ever did.

While we can’t predict the exact moment the pendulum will swing past the median point and deliver a victory for the left, the move away from DJT very well could have begun yesterday. It will only be in hindsight that our political scholars will pinpoint the timing exactly.
But we can posit based on the latest Presidential Medal of Freedom recipient,  our next president will be as liberal as Rush Limbaugh is conservative.
As for swings of momentum in your own life, it helps to have a physical object to be reminded of the power of physics to revise your own course on a regular basis. It also can act as a soothing escape during moments of stress and tension.*
*For those with heavy stress over the current political situation, a life-sized outdoor pendulum might be required.

One could argue that Martin Luther King was the most important political activist in modern American history.

He was certainly the most hated man in America during the 1960s, for railing against the inequities suffered by African-Americans at the hands of whites, advocating for a guaranteed basic income for all people (60 years before Andrew Yang) and stumping for a redistribution of wealth (beating Bernie Sanders and Liz Warren to the punch).

In other words, the guy was a stone-cold radical who shook up a country coming out of the “Happy Days” of the 1950s.

So you might think that Martin was a dour sort. After all, when he wasn’t exhorting millions to rise up and claim their share of the American Dream, he was busy protesting the Vietnam War and fighting consumer exploitation by industry.

But did you know, five minutes before James Earl Ray gunned him down, Dr. King was busy having a pillow fight? This according to Andrew Young, who was with him that day in Memphis.

As all SuperOptimists know, it’s important to let off steam by hitting one of your trusted personal advisors with a hammer blow of feathers when they least expect it.

King was also known for laughing at his posse for jumping in front of him in crowds, ostensibly to protect him but, in King’s eyes, more likely trying to get their pictures in the paper.

May we continue to humanize the people we venerate as saints, while not judging their mirthful side as being at odds with the seriousness of their purpose.

 

 

The lame duck mayor of New York? “Why him?” you may ask. He’s a politician who is disliked by his own city, his own state, his own party, and probably every single person who’s reading this right now.

And that’s exactly the reason we’re naming the sanctimonious, arrogant and annoying Bill de Blasio as our SuperOptimist of the Week!

For even though everyone who comes in contact with Bill de Blasio winds up thinking he’s a giant a-hole, he keeps forging ahead. Undaunted by hecklers.  Undeterred by the polls.  Unapologetic for spending taxpayer dollars commuting to a gym in Park Slope when he could join a New York Sports Club two blocks from his Manhattan office.

In a world where the average person is desperate for validation and heavy “likes” on facebook, how does Bill do it? How does he ignore the fact that he’s a punchline for pundits, late night comics and even his wife Chirlane?

Bill has a special superpower that few humans have. He has succeeded in overcoming his negativity bias to accept and embrace himself without exception. And so, despite the carping of his critics, Bill de Blasio continues to like, respect and celebrate the most important person in his life: Bill de Blasio!

We should all enjoy our own company as much as “the Blas”. After all, there’s no other person we’ll spend more time with during our stint on Planet Earth. So why not start today by giving yourself a deck of affirmation cards to remind yourself just how beautiful you are.

Now maybe Bill de B. goes home to Gracie Mansion at night and cries himself to sleep. But we doubt it. According to Chirlane, he’s up late trying to restore heat to a constituent’s apartment in the Bronx.

Here’s to having that same sense of self-worth that Bill de Blasio has.*

*Without having to actually be Bill de Blasio, of course. No one would wish that upon themselves.

 

Our search for the ideal candidate leads us back to Bill McKay.

Had it with the current occupant of the Oval Office? Not feeling an affinity for the alternatives you’ve seen crowding the stage on CNN? Fear not, dear voter! For here’s a list of all 799 candidates for president, most of whom have not been given a minute of airtime on any cable network.

Take a look and see if a name grabs you. Then do a little digging. Chances are, they have an introductory video on youtube, like Santa (his legal first name), who if elected plans to sell Air Force One on eBay and make his cat the vice president. Or Mike Bickelmeyer, a former Domino’s Pizza driver and Holiday Inn bellhop who presents a humble portrait, complete with tax returns stretching back years. Then there’s Voice Over Pete, who’s running on the internet privacy and gaming platform and has it in for Mark Zuckerberg.

Surely there’s someone here that can fulfill your wish for a Commander-in-Chief. Still not enticed by a candidate’s message? Then take matters into your own hands! America is the land of the free and home of the long shot. Here are the instructions for tossing your hat into the ring.

And remember, even if you don’t reach the pinnacle of power, you’ll still be in position to accept a cabinet post by getting your name out there. But make sure you have a good working knowledge of the Constitution and ideas for how to revise the 232-year-old document to better reflect life on earth now.

Here’s a primer to help a candidate frame their proposals.

Good luck, and may the most positive, uplifting, and well-mannered candidate win.

It won’t be long before we see candidates who are artificially manufactured taking the debate stage at the Fox Theater in Detroit. Will we be able to tell the difference between the cyborgs and the flesh and blood versions? Stay tuned.

 

 

Whereby we examine why some people don’t vote, and offer remedies for this situation, including one utilized by none other than the first president of the United States.

While the cable news networks argue that the coming midterm elections are “the most crucial in our lifetime,” it’s still likely that a vast swath of registered voters won’t bother to show up. This despite a plethora of well-meaning public service announcements, editorials, cold calls, and celebrity tweets. Even if the turnout is high for a midterm, we can anticipate 40% of the electorate missing in action.

For those of us who will cast a ballot on November 6th, it’s easy to feel morally superior to the no-shows (especially if their votes could help our favorite candidates emerge victorious). But rather than look down our nose at our fellow citizens, perhaps we should examine why so many people fail to exercise their constitutional right — and then do something to improve this situation.

First off, election day isn’t a holiday, but it should be While white collar urban professionals need only walk a few blocks from their doorman buildings to their polling places, many of the working poor must travel a good distance to cast their ballot.  When you consider that many are working more than one job to feed their families, taking a few hours out of a day is not an option.

This is on top of the costs associated with voter ID requirements. A study from Harvard Law School estimates that when everything is tallied up, the cost of voting can run between $75 and $400.  Free country, you say?  Not for the 99%.

How can we rectify the injustices of our current election system?  Perhaps we should take a cue from our founding fathers and mothers. In the early days of our democracy, they respected the effort it took for farmers, laborers and townspeople to trek to the ballot boxes.  Political candidates would offer voters food and drink, evenhandedly giving “treats” to opponents as well as supporters.  A barrel of flour or a live pig could also used as an enticement.

Perhaps you believe such “pay to play” activity is morally wrong. Certainly George Washington did when he refused to supply free booze during his first run for office. But after he lost his bid for a state seat in Virginia, he earmarked a tidy sum for refreshments for his followup campaign.  Needless to say, he was more successful the second time around.

Another option is to take the grog out of the hands of the candidates, and put it into the restaurants of the people. Again, back in the 1700s, quite a few polling places were located inside saloons. And why not? Showing up to a cold, cavernous public school, library or town hall doesn’t exactly send the spirit soaring.  We could just as easily tap our local pizza establishments and barbeque joints to host election day.  Simply produce your ballot stub and the first pulled pork sandwich is on the government!

If offering sustenance to voters still makes you uneasy, how about combining the act of voting with the chance to win a large cash prize? Say, institute a national lottery which offers every voter who casts a ballot the opportunity to win a few million bucks. It’s not as outrageous as you think; this very notion was on one state’s ballot in 2006. The “Arizona Voter Reward Act” proposed that one lucky voter would claim the grand prize every time there was a major election. Proposition 200 would have provided the money by transferring unclaimed lottery winnings into a separate Voter Reward Fund, to be overseen by the Arizona State Lottery Commission.

Alas, the measure was defeated, 67% to 33%, thanks to the naysayers who wished to protect “the integrity of our elections.”  They argue that inducements such as lotteries and giveaways would get more people who are ill-informed to participate in our elections. But ill-informed according to whom? Sean Hannity?  Rachel Maddow? A law professor from ASU? And what of the large sums of cash given directly to candidates by the well-heeled, the corporations and their lobbyists? Are we to assume that’s a fair way of buying an election, but a free meatball hero at the polling station is verboten?

Let’s sidestep the sanctimony, and put the fun back into fundamentals of democracy.  If we start the campaign now, we can look forward to a 90% turnout in 2020!

*At the very least, making it less onerous to vote would be a step in the right direction.  Many countries, including Sweden, Germany, and Chile, make voter registration automatic for every citizen.  Take the time and expense of travel out of voting would also be welcome. Oregon, Colorado and Washington have instituted vote by mail systems and in the last midterms, turnout in these three states was 65.7%, vs. 48% nationally. (They also save their taxpayers millions of dollars by doing it this way. Which could be put towards the lottery idea.  Just saying.)

 

It was a risky move in 1972 when President Richard M. Nixon decided to make cordial overtures to communist China. The USA and China had been at odds since 1949 when Mao Zedong took over leadership of China’s communist party. Despite decades of chilly relations, Nixon decided to warm things up and made a visit to China to meet elder statesman Mao and they had a nice long chat.

Nixon said about his trip:

“The Chinese use two brush strokes to write the word crisis. One brush stroke stands for danger; the other for opportunity. In a crisis, be aware of the danger – but recognize the opportunity.”

Wise words for any SuperOptimist to remember, courtesy of Mr. Nixon.