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Editorial: Don’t take potato salad too seriously

It’s difficult to escape the feeling, especially in these slow, sticky days of summer, that too many people take too much far too seriously. Just because we might be feeling hot and sweaty and unable to avert climate catastrophe doesn’t mean we have to take it out on others.

Example one: The potato salad Kickstarter project.

Zack “Danger” Brown of Columbus, Ohio, posted a silly project on the crowd-funding website earlier this month. He called it “Potato Salad.”

Rather than write a book, program a video game or put on a dance show (all common Kickstarter goals), Brown wrote that: “Basically I’m just making potato salad. I haven’t decided what kind yet.”

The deadpan humor of the project – Brown was seeking only $10, for one thing – drew attention. The page soon went viral, and as of Monday night, more than $50,000 had been pledged to help Brown in his gustatory mission.

But good-natured silliness wasn’t enough. Almost as soon as the page gained attention, Brown faced sharp criticism.

Online commentators, such as Jordan Weissmann of Slate, said he should give the excess money to charity. An appearance on Good Morning America saw Brown trying to comfort the morning-show crew by saying, “I want to do the most good I can do with this.”

All of which makes us ask: Why should people spend money on any sort of amusements at all? Why should movies or songs or books become best-sellers and rake in millions of dollars? Wouldn’t that money be better spent helping the less fortunate?

Of course it would.

But that’s not the point. We’re fortunate enough to live in a time when we have a multitude of ways to spend our dollars. The internet makes it easy to throw a couple of bucks at a silly crowd-funding project, but it also makes it dramatically easier for charities to raise money from a vast, untapped audience.

There are truly no losers here.

We would wager that no one who sent money to Brown’s potato salad project was choosing between it and a contribution to the soup kitchen.

Life itself should not be seen as a choice between laughter and obligation. It should, at its best, encompass all of those things, because as humans we encompass all of those things.

Perhaps it’s best, then, that the finger-waggers and nags of the online (and real) world put some ice in their drinks, turn up the air conditioner, take a sip and enjoy a nice dish of potato salad.

We know someone who’s going to be making a lot of it pretty soon.

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