This is not about politics; this is not about oppression by the politically correct crowd, at least not on a national scale. Nor is this post about you, unless it speaks to you, but remember: I didn’t write this with you in mind. Besides, if you’re easily offended, you may as well leave now, because I’m about to trample on that garden of brambles you call an emotional defense mechanism.
We get it: you know people who suffer from a plight that others might find funny: this could be a friend, or family member or even yourself. Some of these people may even have lost their lives as a result. I feel for you, but this gives you no right to be a thought policeman when an ongoing conversation isn’t even about you.
Just because someone is engaging in levity doesn’t mean that they intend to slight you. Because most of the time the chuckles aren’t about you. And if you shied away from, or drove away, those who would occasionally make light of a dire situation, you would find yourself in very boring place dominated by your misery, populated only by those too afraid to stand up to you.
Misery and repression are defense mechanisms as valid as levity can be. I’ll get a little personal and share a story or two.
A high school classmate drove drunk with a passenger who was too high to drive. He got into an accident which killed the passenger and injured him only lightly. And yet, comedic renditions of car crashes and accidents don’t offend me. I have had to deal with alcoholic family members and yet will make fun of a drunk who has pissed himself in the depths of his intoxication. I have had to deal with friends who are addicted to drugs, yet I will laugh at this back-alley crackwhore.
Personal stories aside, have some perspective. What you think is courage in speaking up against insensitivity of others is not always courageous, nor is their insensitivity malicious. With each time you express offense at something, the people around you build a list of things that they’d rather not mention—not even make light of—in front of you for fear of offending you.
This might make me seem insensitive or callous. To a point, I’m already known for being so. However, there is a place for humor, and it only works when the fear of offending someone is not the paramount concern. As this article in Salon concludes:
In the worst moments of life, humor can be a potent force for healing (think of The Onion’s brilliant post-9/11 coverage) — or salt in a still bleeding wound.
Sometimes, the wound that keeps bleeding isn’t because of the salt others put on it; it’s that you never let it heal by picking at the scabs continuously.