Wake Up Happy

One of my favorite TV personalities is Michael Strahan, the former football star who appears on ABC's Good Morning America with Kelly Ripa. Strahan was a strapping defensive end who played 15 years for the New York Giants, helping them win a Super Bowl in 2007. But his size belies a gentle, good humored personality that I find engaging. I am at least in part a Strahan fan because I know he is an Army brat who confirms my prejudice in favor of military families that provide a solid upbringing for millions of youngsters. He's good people.

Strahan has a new book out, Wake Up Happy: The Dream Big, Win Big Guide to Transforming Your Life. He is a fellow who has known hardship and for sure playing professional football is not an easy way to earn a living, but he exudes a joie de vivre that is contagious. Millions of people tune into ABC in the morning I assume because he and Kelly give them a jolt of joy to start off the day.

Actually, I think that is what every American needs these days. We are beset on every side by expressions of anger and frustration that to me seems wildly disproportionate to our troubles.

The radio blares an incessant roar of billingsgate by agitated people who want us to believe everyone in high places is conspiring to betray our country. The Congress is in constant turmoil as Senators and Congressmen rush to stake out the most extreme positions, accusing the loyal opposition of bad faith. The newspapers, news magazines and social media are caught up in the noisy cacophony that seems always at a fever pitch.

As one who has lived through the Great Depression and World War II, and fought in Korea and Vietnam, I do not believe the problems facing our nation today are all that dire. In fact, I believe I can safely say that previous generations of Americans have lived through much harder times without losing their capacity for civil discourse. Something has gone terribly wrong among a people that has lost its sense of humor.

Even the comedians today are caught up in the viciousness. Their humor is laced with profane broadsides at people in public life. Every joke is a dagger aimed at someone's heart. They get lots of laughs, but there is no happy in their humor.

I was raised on a generation of comics who used good-natured humor to make people laugh at themselves and escape temporarily from the daily grind -- people like Red Skelton, George Burns and Gracie Allen, George Gobel, Bob Hope and Sid Caesar. They did not have to employ profanity or tear people down to get laughs. They made you laugh and feel better about yourself and the world around you.

We have our troubles today, but they pale in comparison to what previous generations endured. And yet they always had the ability to laugh and rise above the fray. What's missing in Washington today, and it seems just about everywhere else, is a sense of humor, the ability to laugh at ourselves and with other people instead of at them.

Lt. Gen. Clarence E. "Mac" McKnight, Jr., (USA-Ret) is the author of "From Pigeons to Tweets: A General Who Led Dramatic Change in Military Communications," published by The History Publishing Company.