Then Grandpa turned red,
and he gave out a roar.
he sped through the kitchen
and dashed out the door!
Grandma just smiled
as she pulled up a stool.
She nibbled his toast
and she called, . . . “April Fool!”
from April Foolishness
by Teresa Bateman
Illustrated by Nadine Bernard Westcott
Albert Whitman & Company, 2004
We never did April Fools’ Day up big. Just the usual, “Your shoe’s untied!” or “You buttoned your shirt crooked.” Once, I tried to convince my mom we had a day off from school, teacher’s work day, or something. That didn’t go very far. Mom knew what day it was.
Some of my friends got really into the practical jokes. The elaborate set-up, the delicate follow-through, and the sometimes hilarious result never seemed to pan out for me. I do like a good laugh, though.
No one knows for sure, but April Fools’ Day may have started loooong ago with the Roman tradition of Hilaria. It was celebrated the day after the vernal equinox, when the day is just a shade longer than the night (around March 20). But then there’s the Julian/Gregorian calendar correction, so lots of dates moved a little to the north. Games, plays, and masquerades were common during Hilaria..
Then, in the late 1600s, so many fools traveled to the Tower of London to watch a made up ceremony they called “washing of the lions,” that the April 2, 1598, edition of a local newspaper had to debunk the hoax. They also publicly mocked those who fell for it.
On the evening of April 1, 1957, thousands of British families tuned in to a current events show to watch a happy Swiss family harvesting their prized spaghetti trees. The spaghetti was a perfect al dente and hung loosely from the branches. Of course, the four-minute “news” segment was an intricate April Fools’ Day hoax. It was devised by a freelance cameraman and produced for a mere 100 pounds.
These days it’s harder to tell news from foolishness. Lots of the news is foolish but, lots more is downright dangerous.
First we get Mexico to pay for a border wall, now we don’t.
First we un-fund the Special Olympics. Then uproar ensues and reason prevails. Now we don’t.
First we un-ban drilling in vast areas of the Arctic and dozens of canyons in the Atlantic Ocean (sharp intake of breath). Then reason speaks to legal opinion (and common sense). Now the ban holds. No drilling (collective sigh of relief).
Now we unilaterally recognize Jerusalem as the legitimate and diplomatic capital of Israel. Now we unilaterally declare the Golan Heights an area completely under Israeli control. Are we now encouraging antagonism and fear? Are we now de-stabilizing an already delicate part of the world? In the name of self-righteousness? Even if those events seem like the right thing to do, timing is everything. Consideration of our allies is everything else.
I say “we” and “our” because we are all in this scary nightmare together.
Now we’re condemning The Affordable Care Act (because of its Obamacare nickname?) How many people will be hurt because of that senseless pandering to insurance companies?
Now we’re closing the border with Mexico. Really? How many companies will lose money and workers? How many people will be hurt, economically, physically, or otherwise?
And ending foreign aid to Guatemala, Honduras, and El Salvador? Can he even do that?
I am not making light of these statements and developments. Some of them are true and probably lasting, with consequences, intended or not. Some will be reversed as the voices of justice, reason, and common sense speak up.
Gullibility is aligned with ignorance. Foolishness is closely akin to vulnerability. We owe ourselves, our families, our nation, and our Mother Earth to learn as best as we can what is real, what is just a bunch of hot air, and what is truly dangerous.
Then we need to act.
-—stay curious! (and brave)