This is going to be kind of serious post. It is hard to be humorous about this topic.
I just went through a comments round with an old high school classmate and her friends on Facebook recently. She was passing on what I deem a rather inappropriate joke about throwing the president and first lady out of an airplane. When I pointed out that “I don’t wish the death of our president and first lady under any circumstances” I’m sure I hurt her feelings. That was not my intent but maybe a necessary consequence of taking this action. Of course several of her friends told me to chill out and “it was just a joke”…
This situation brought back some very uncomfortable memories from my past. In the early 1970s I traveled to a company in the deep south on regular business trips and as a result was regularly exposed to Mel. Mel was a fellow engineer that I needed to work with in order to get my job done. He was what I pictured as a typical “good old boy” as they called themselves in the south at that time. The trouble with Mel was that he constantly “joked” about “little black babies”, “boys”, and of course the “N” word was a part of his regular repertoire. At lunch we would go to the company cafeteria and the whole time there he was rattling off his jokes. It was obvious that the African-Americans who were also in the room were his intended listeners as well as those other good old boys sitting around his table.
Growing up in a small Midwestern farm town this type of stuff was very foreign to me. Since Mel was quite a bit older than I was I usually just sat in silence when he was telling his stories. But one time I got the nerve up to ask him why he constantly had to put down other people just because the color of their skin. His response was “hell boy, they are just jokes…” There was many a day since then that I wished I had more directly confronted Mel but I never did. He was the center of attention of the group he constantly hung around with. Mel couldn’t tell any of his “jokes” without the whole group bursting into laughter. After about two years of being exposed to Mel I was transferred to another job that did not require any more contact with him. I heard about five years after that last time that he had died of lung cancer.
To this day I am very sensitive to these types of mean-spirited “jokes”. I see them for what they are and that is just a way to relay hate of others. So when my former classmate, who at least when I knew her would never pass a joke such this did, an immediate knee jerk reaction happened. I hope that she and some of her obviously very conservative friends at least stop and think before they pass the next one on in their Facebook pages. These types of jokes were also prevalent during Mr. Bush’s time in office. I was just as much offended by them then as I was offended by this one. Just because you wrap something in a joke does not make it any less damaging, hurtful or offensive.
But what do I know….