Permissable Ridicule

NOTE from 2021: When I noticed my blog was getting hacked in February of 2020 I did some quick fixes and somehow all of my draft posts from the previous 16 years ended up assigned to that month. This is one of those posts. I used the context to “guess” when I actually wrote it so if anything about this publication date seems off to future me…I wanted this note here to explain possible errors.

I’ve been thinking a lot about the culture around mocking and making fun of people. I, obviously, was neck-deep in that culture from probably age 9 to age…uggg…22? I’m trying to think about when that stopped being a pasttime of me and the people I socialized with and I’d like to pretend it ended in high school but I think – if I’m being honest – it took longer than that.

I still see people do it online, with the “People of Wal-mart” type posts, but I’m happy that it’s few and far between and it’s usually being done by casual aquaintances and not people I would call friends. This sometimes has me thinking that I’ve reached and age where no one bothers or finds that even remotely entertaining anymore.

But then I’ll find myself in a new group for a moment, maybe at a large meeting or a large event, and I’ll hear people mocking others and I’ll realize OH! It’s not that I’ve grown out of it. I’ve just successfully built a peer group of people who have better ways to entertain themselves than at the expense of others.

I’m talking about people making fun of men in white spandex, or women who don’t know how to do their make up, or social awkwardness or…well, the same crap people mocked when we were 12, just modified for adults.

And this blew me away because, at least in my peer group, and I’m even talking about casual friends, this is not acceptable. I’m not sure if anyone would call anyone else out about it, it just doesn’t happen. As a matter of fact, I’m thinking of my Facebook friends that I still follow and I’m thinking about the frequent posts I see criticizing people who make fun of other people! So not only do they not do it, but it’s not acceptable. Even if it popped into my head I would not do it because I know it would upset my friends.

But there still seem to be two categories where making fun of people is permissable. The first? Grammar. Now, maybe I’m sensitive to this because I’m insecure about my language skills, but DAMN. Every time someone posts statuses making fun of people don’t know the use of the “There/Their/They’re” I think, Jeez. Maybe not everyone grew up with the excellent education they did. If you know what they mean and are NOT grading their paper, can you give them a break? I mean, what do you want the person to do? Take a college class about basic grammar in between their full-time job and their raising of a family? Do you want them to have paid more attention in elementary school? I mean, I don’t remember anything from World History class, should I still be held at fault? Not everyone has a life that requires they use perfect grammar so if that skill was never learned or falls to the wayside, can we stop making fun of them? Also…SOMETIMES PEOPLE MAKE MISTAKES. That’s still allowed, right?

The other category is less benign. It’s harsh mocking of people opposite of your politics. I don’t mean mocking their political leanings, that’s kinda accepted in arguing or debating about politics. I’m talking about mocking their social skills or their appearance or their family relationships. I know we could debate all day about whether or not that’s part of their job, but my question is: WHAT IS THE POINT? Criticize someone for trying to pass anti-abortion legislature if you’re pro-life, but don’t make jokes about their clothing or their personality. Hell, make-fun of their conflicting policy stances if it seems their politics are only as strong as their donor base, but don’t make fun of their accent or their speaking ability. I just feel like we take the easy joke too often instead of focusing on harmful policies and unethical legislation.

Now, this is NOT targeting media whose job it is to be satirical and to mock politics. Seth Meyers and SNL and John Oliver, that’s their job and I can choose to watch or not. I’m talking about the average person on Facebook who constantly posts that chubby golfing photo of the President on Facebook instead of calling his administration out for using their power to try to get a show canceled that they don’t like. Instead of constantly referencing the president’s extra-marital affairs, let’s talk about whether or not his recent pardon is maybe a message to people facing the same charges now to STAY LOYAL.

I don’t know, I’m just frustrated that in some circles we’ve move to great conversation about mental health and telling our personal truths about the struggles of marriage and parenting and career. We’re not putting on pretty faces and we’re not cleaning up the background of our instagram photos before we post them. In many social spheres we’re being authentic and we’re loving each other for it.

But we still have so far to go. But imagine if the conversation changed and if we stopped taking the cheap shot around politics and we stuck with conversation about policy and legislation? I mean, I’m honestly very stressed out about several directions of this current administration. There are a lot of lower level federal judge appointees that are perfectly placed if the right challenge to Roe v. Wade comes along. We’re making it harder for poor people to get the help they need. We’re focusing more on law and order instead of criminal justice reform. We’re not talking enough about the self-segregation of our cities and the systemic racism that keeps hold minorities back at every turn. We’re still letting our minimum wage stay stagnant as our gas prices and soar and our food prices rise at the rate of inflation.

I just wonder what would happen if we all just tried to lead by example. There will always be people who go for the easy joke, but what if we tried to give our words more substance? That instead of making jokes about the First Lady having disappeared we try to get our representatives to conquer the still-standing water problem in Flint, Michigan or figure out how we’re going to get the power on in Puerto Rico.

I don’t know. I guess I’m just frustrated.

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