To say things aren’t going great is a bit of an understatement. Sometimes, though, it’s important and necessary to take a step back and look at recent remarkable and uplifting stories. We call it a dose of dopamine.
In an effort to unify the rank-and-file in the US Marine Corps, General David H. Berger announced in a letter on Monday, April 20, that he would ban displays of the Confederate battle flag.
“I am mindful that many people believe that flag to be a symbol of heritage or regional pride,” he wrote, “[b]ut I am also mindful of the feelings of pain and rejection of those who inherited the cultural memory and present effects of the scourge of slavery in our country.” Noting that his intent was not to judge the specific meaning anyone ascribes to the Confederate flag, he concluded that because it “has the power to inflame feelings of division” he couldn’t allow it.
Berger’s been on a roll on this issue, having ordered Confederate paraphernalia to be removed from installations two months ago, and has been taking other proactive actions, including revising the Marine Corps’s enlistment policy to disqualify applicants with domestic violence convictions.
In other news of officials repudiating Confederate symbols, on April 12, Virginia Governor Ralph Northam signed into law a measure that cancels the January holiday known as Lee-Jackson Day. Since 1904, the state holiday celebrated the birthdays of Confederate generals Robert E. Lee and Stonewall Jackson. (Believe it or not, from 1983 to 2000 Lee-Jackson Day was merged with the federal Martin Luther King Jr. holiday.) Instead, the new law makes Election Day an official state holiday, and another new law rolls back Virginia’s punitive voter ID requirements. “Voting is a fundamental right,” said Northam. “These new laws strengthen our democracy by making it easier to cast a ballot, not harder.”
During the early stage of the coronavirus quarantine, world-famous Columbian singer/dancer/producer Shakira completed a four-week course on ancient philosophy through the University of Pennsylvania. In a social media post in April showing her certificate of completion, Shakira noted that it took hours after her kids were asleep to complete it, adding, “Thank you Plato and predecessors for all the ‘fun’ over the past month!”
While the tourists are staying safely at home, Australian scuba tour companies are using their staff and boats to help scientists plant coral on the Great Barrier Reef. They’ve planted 100 pieces of coral so far and look forward to showing tourists their progress on future tours. The Great Barrier Reef, one of the seven wonders of the world, is the world’s largest coral reef system but it has been cut by half over the last thirty-five years due to climate change, coral bleaching, and pollution.
In other aquatic good news, the Professional Association of Diving Instructors is making and selling face masks made from plastic water bottles that once polluted oceans. Masks come with filters, are designed with aquatic animals, and are available in children’s sizes. Lisa Nicklin, vice president of consumer marketing at PADI, said that the current order of masks has helped remove and reuse 1,267 pounds of ocean waste.
A six-year-old in British Columbia has set up a free joke stand in his driveway. He spends a few hours a day sitting there and tells free jokes to people who drive or pass by. Interviewed by CBC News, Callaghan McLaughlin was asked to tell a few jokes (mostly one-liners he got from a joke book his parents gave him a while back). “What’s red, white, and blue?” he asked, delivering the punchline—“a sad candy cane”—while working hard to keep a straight face. When asked what his worst or most corny joke was he said he didn’t have any bad ones, but that his sister’s jokes were “awful.” (“What did the donut say when it did something great? Donutty awesome.”)
Speaking of fried dough, Donuts Delite in Rochester, New York, is doing a bang-up business. The dining room is closed due to the pandemic, but customers can get ‘em to go, standing six-feet apart in line, wearing masks, and taking turns going inside to pick up their orders. Owner Nick Semeraro has gotten creative with “quarantine-themed” delights like a donut in a face mask, one named after Dr. Anthony Fauci, and a Tiger King-themed cruller. Even their slogan is unique as a riff on Shakespeare (“What Foods These Morsels Be”)—talk about donutty awesome!