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Byline: Jonathan Dobrer

APRIL Fools' Day April Fools' Day
 or All Fools' Day

First day of April, named for the custom of playing practical jokes on that date. Though it has been observed for centuries in several countries, including France and Britain, its origin is unknown.
 doesn't get the respect it deserves, but then again neither do fools. We tend, understandably, to mix fools with being foolish or stupid. This applies only in everyday language. Professional fools and holy fools have a long and honorable tradition. Fools may act silly and, well, foolish, but, underneath, their real job is to speak, sing, rhyme and uncover for the sake of something more profound. They, like impressionist painters, distort ordinary appearances to reveal a deeper truth.

Though this may run counter to our impressions, our society does not have enough real fools. Lots of idiots and people who try to fool us, but not true fools. Fools, like prophets, have the job of truth-telling -- real truth, not just the all-too-common "truthiness," as one of today's great fools, Steven Colbert, puts it.

Fools share this truth-telling with prophets, but there are important differences. Prophets are driven to tell their truth regardless of whether it is heard or even if they survive. Most prophets do not survive. Prophets stand outside the camp, the community or the mainstream establishment and shout their truths. They cry out in the wilderness and, as John the Baptist John the Baptist

prophet who baptized crowds and preached Christ’s coming. [N.T.: Matthew 3:1–13]

See : Baptism

John the Baptist

head presented as gift to Salome. [N.T.: Mark 6:25–28]

See : Decapitation
 and Paul, often lose their heads. As a job, it doesn't have a great deal of longevity. Prophets seldom die of natural causes in ripe old age. On the other hand, they don't need a health or retirement plan.

Fools have a different mandate. They, as jesters, are inside the society and establishment and sometimes inside the Court itself. They are subversive and try to speak their truth to power in ways that get heard -- using the laughter to create insight. They also try to speak their truths in ways that let them survive to mock, jest and entertain another day.

Of course, they are not always successful either in getting their insights through or in surviving. When the rapier of wit it too sharp, the king, the president, the CEO (1) (Chief Executive Officer) The highest individual in command of an organization. Typically the president of the company, the CEO reports to the Chairman of the Board.  might respond with a real rapier.

Fools tend not to yell and rant. They observe playfully. Often, like children do naturally, they use innocence and humor as techniques and pray for the indulgence that we usually grant to children. They say the things that children say and ask the questions, the impolite im·po·lite  
Not polite; discourteous.

[Latin impol
 and politically incorrect politically incorrect
Disregarding or unconcerned with political correctness.

political incorrectness n.

Adj. 1.
 questions, that children ask.

The story of the Emperor's New Clothes Emperor’s New Clothes

supposedly invisible to unworthy people; in reality, nonexistent. [Dan. Lit.: Andersen’s Fairy Tales]

See : Illusion

Emperor’s New Clothes
 is illustrative. The emperor has been sold a bill of goods bill of goods
n. pl. bills of goods
1. A consignment of items for sale.

2. Informal A plan, promise, or offer, especially one that is dishonest or misleading: "The salesman himself .
, a suit made of such fine material as to be invisible to the unrefined. In truth, he is wearing nothing, but does not wish to appear to be among the unrefined unable to see his finery. He is naked, but no one will tell him. They don't want him to look foolish, and more importantly, they don't want to take the blame for embarrassing the emperor -- usually a bad career move. Then a child, with all the innocence of the young, honestly observes that the emperor is indeed naked. Once spoken in public, the obvious is stated by all who already knew the truth.

If we replay this story with prophets and fools we see the difference between them. The prophet would shout from the crowd: "The emperor is naked. Starkers stark·ers  
adj. Chiefly British Slang
Stark naked.

[Alteration of stark naked.]

Adj. 1.
. He's got nothing on. He's a deluded fool." The prophet might get heard and start the crowd reacting, but just as likely, the masses would not respond, not wanting to be seen on the side of a usually dirty and possibly mad screamer screamer, common name for gregarious, aquatic birds comprising three species in the family Anhimidae. Although they are related to the ducks and geese, they do not resemble them in outward appearance. . They also are unlikely to wish to share the fate of the threatened and rejected prophet.

The fool does it differently. Rather than shout the truth, he illustrates what everyone already knows. The fool does not say, "The Emperor is naked." The fool takes off his own clothes and in mock innocence says, "You know I'm only a poor fool, but what a wonderful kingdom. I go to the same tailor as the emperor!"

The crowd laughs, revealing to itself the previously unspoken truth. If the fool and the nation are lucky, the emperor laughs too. The truth is acknowledged and nobody gets hurt.

We are blessed with a great tradition of fools. Mark Twain gave us biting satires of religion, race and contemporary mores. Will Rogers with his faux innocent act was able to mock and skewer pompous pretentiousness and remain friends with the powerful. He never lost his place in the "court" and was never banished to the wilderness.

Fools are not always so fortunate. King Lear's fool ends badly, though not at the king's command. Then there is that fine line between being a fool and a prophet. Fools sometimes cross it and may become prophets, and tragically, even martyrs. They may begin to take their message so seriously that they can no longer find the humor.

Mort Sahl Morton Lyon Sahl (born May 11, 1927 in Montreal, Quebec, Canada) is an American comedian and actor. He is credited with pioneering a style of stand-up comedy that paved the way for Lenny Bruce, Nichols & May and Dick Gregory. He also wrote speeches for John F. Kennedy. , the pre-eminent fool of the late '50s and '60s, crossed the line with his prophet-like stance against the Warren Report Warren Report

government’s much disputed conclusion that President Kennedy’s assassin acted alone. [Am. Hist.: Van Doren, 594]

See : Controversy
 on the assassination Assassination
See also Murder.


Fanatical Moslem sect that smoked hashish and murdered Crusaders (11th—12th centuries). [Islamic Hist.: Brewer Note-Book, 52]


conspirator and assassin of Julius Caesar. [Br.
 of JFK. But before that, he illuminated reality with such ironic observations as, "Eisenhower is for gradual integration and Stevenson is for moderate integration. Is there nowhere between these two great extremes where we can find a compromise?"

Dick Gregory Richard "Dick" Claxton Gregory, (born October 12, 1932) is an American comedian, social activist, writer and entrepreneur.

Born in St. Louis, Missouri, United States, Dick Gregory is an influential African American comic who has used his performance skills to convey to both
 also moved from fool to prophet -- understandably overwhelmed with the ongoing pain of racism. But before retiring from dispensing the cleansing, insight-provoking method of satire he claimed, "We sat in at that lunch counter for four years waiting for them to integrate. When they finally did, they didn't have what we wanted."

Today we still have some fools who may teeter on the line over the abyss. While still funny, Bill Maher William Maher, Jr., (pronounced: /mɑɹ/) (born January 20 1956) is an American comedian, actor, writer, and producer.  almost went from fool directly to martyrdom without ever going through the prophet stage. With his wildly misinterpreted remarks on the 9-11 terrorists, he is, in his own words, "the only person to actually lose his job because of 9-11." On the conservative side of the spectrum, Dennis Miller Dennis Miller (born November 3, 1953) is an American Emmy Award-winning comedian, political commentator, television personality, and talk radio host. He rose to fame as a cast member of Saturday Night Live , while not martyred in the classic sense, in many ways sacrificed his career by moving from left to right.

Our nation needs a program to develop fools. We have too many people fooling us by bending the truth beyond recognition. The fool reveals the truth about those who try to fool us by burying and hiding the truth under words, misdirection MISDIRECTION, practice. An error made by a judge in charging the jury in a special case.
     2. Such misdirection is either in relation to matters of law or matters of fact.
 and spin.

When the "Clear Skies Clear Skies could refer to:
  • Clear Skies Act of 2003 and 2005 in the United States
  • Clear Skies microgeneration programme in the United Kingdom
 Initiative" allows more pollutants in the air, we need fools. When weapons systems designed to kill are called "Peace Keepers," we need fools. When a president acts as if there were a legitimate dispute about what "the meaning of 'is' is," we need fools. We need fools to use the subversive power of humor to move us to see the self-evident truths in front of our eyes.

On April Fools' Day, and possibly even in normal life, let us all try to tell the truth like fools -- with humor and grace, with voices soft enough to be heard and wit sharp enough to penetrate minds lulled by conventional wisdom.

It is my deepest ambition to become a fool. My wife says I have already achieved it, and I am flattered ... I think.
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Title Annotation:Viewpoint
Publication:Daily News (Los Angeles, CA)
Date:Apr 1, 2007

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