When the Grand Haven City Council voted unanimously last night to levy a series of taxes and fines on Anxiety, Depression, and most other public displays of unhappiness, they were sending a strong message about the strength of their commitment to making Grand Haven the happiest city in America. A statement released by the Council immediately after the adjournment of last night’s meeting, says, in part, “Grand Haven is a very happy place, filled with happy voters who elected us to keep them happy, and we’re more than happy to fulfill that obligation, using any and all means at our disposal.”
While last night’s Council vote will be happy news to those happy folks who value happiness above all else, it has also given new ammunition to local whiners & complainers. One local group, The Freedom of Mood & Expression Liberation Front (FMELF), is said to be contemplating legal action against the City, as well as a name-change to something catchier for the general public (investigation by The Times reveals the FMELF Facebook Page has only 23 Followers, and 18 of those are FMELF members). In an interview with The Times this morning, a clearly despondent Jack Downermann, spokesman for the FMELF, expressed the group’s unhappiness. “Such blatant violation of our civil liberties is unconscionable”, says Downermann, “People struggling with personal or family issues, people struggling to make ends meet and keep food on the table…there are many people with perfectly legitimate reasons to be worried, anxious, or even depressed. To then tax or fine them for failing to maintain a happy face in public is only adding insult to injury, pouring salt in an open wound, kicking someone when they’re down…you get the drift of my cliches, right?”
The City, however, remains steadfast in its defense of the new Ordinance. “Life can be tough, so boo-hoo“, says City Council Member Martin McFlyerson, “No one is born unhappy. We all choose whether to think positive or negative thoughts, we all choose whether we’ll be brought down or lifted up by our challenges. Being happy is a personal, conscious choice we all make. Even Oprah says that. We’re only motivating people to make that choice sooner than later.”
The City’s landmark decision was hailed as a “bold and courageous step towards a happier future” by Gladys McCrackenberger, President of the Mary A. White Virgin-Spinster Society. “The town is called GRAND Haven for plenty of good reasons”, says McCrackenberger, “And we have a long history of publicly calling upon our residents to be happy and positive. Even old Henry Pennoyer saw fit to put it on the front page of the very first issue of Grand Haven’s first-ever newspaper.” The accompanying photo confirms McCrackenberger’s story, showing a section of The Grand River Times’ Front Page, from July 2, 1851, the paper’s first issue, exhorting residents to “BE GOOD NATURED”, and begins, “People are naturally good natured, when they are brought up well, and have no more right to be surly and sour than they have to swear, lie or steal.”
Clearly, these 163-year-old words were the first seeds planted in a happiness-movement that has perhaps come to fruition in last night’s Council vote to ban public unhappiness. Whether The City’s ban will survive legal challenges in court, however, remains to be seen. As The Times went to press, Jack Downermann was still too upset and unhappy-looking to leave home without fear of being ticketed or arrested, while Gladys McCrackenberger was happily enjoying an afternoon of lunch and downtown shopping with friends.
(Editor’s Note: in the event our photo is hard to read, below is the full transcript of Henry Pennoyer’s 1851 exhortation to Be Good Natured)