Laughter is one the best things that can lift up the human spirit when it needs to be picked up. Sharing a joke among friends can sometimes break the ice. The joke ceases to be funny when the intent or the punchline is hurtful to others.
Making jokes at the expense of others is nothing new. It has been going on throughout the ages. From the time of the old bard, Shakespeare making jokes about the Moors in his plays and sonnets to the "Short Bus Jokes" of today, racial jokes and discriminating jokes have always been around. The sad part is, there is no shame when making them. What is even more sad, is there is no remorse about it, either.
Now I am not going to get on my high and mighty stead and start preaching about how I never laughed at a joke about a race, religion or a certain group of people, as that would hypocritical of me to do so, but I will note, that since my children, I have become more aware of the impact that jokes about other people have not only on my own children, but the message types of jokes can carry. In a way it paves the way for budding discrimination and bullying. Which to me isn't right. In our youth, we didn't think about the impact, that laughing at short bus jokes would do. Its when you become an adult, you start to see the social impact certain jokes have on the people they are about.
It seems that in past decade or so, that jokes made concerning disabilities has been made more mainstream, and while I have been told that " Hey, its just like every other joke made about others, what's the big deal?", I tend to reply, "Would you like this joke to be about you or a loved one, specifically?" 9 times out of 10 the person will reply no. And sometimes I get the occasional person who doesn't care. But I have often found that when the tables are turned, the laughter tends to stop short. A lot of people miss the bigger picture when trying to get a laugh. But it seems that some have missed this mark.
Comedians like DH Hurley and now Steve Harvey, who knowingly poked fun at the Intellectually Disabled, have come under fire from the Autism Community. Right fully so. It would be a different story if a Caucasian comic poked fun of the African American Community or vice versa. There would be mentions of racism thrown out and apologies given. So why isn't there the same when it comes to offending the Special Needs Community? Now I get that Steve Harvey issued his own half assed apology to the Autism Community over his gaffe on his morning show, but that still doesn't stop the continual onslaught of jokes poking fun of people with Autism or other developmental disorders. And before anyone wants to question, whether or not I have a sense of humor, I do. There are lots of things that I find funny in this world that don't involve making someone or a group of people feel bad about themselves. Because what people don't understand, is that people like Hurley or Harvey have a fan base. They have people that hang on to every word and joke that comes out of their mouths. So really what kind of example does that set? That its ok to make fun of a group of people, but when someone does it to them, that isn't ok? Its a nice double standard isn't it? These two are only two out of the many who have used Special Needs as a punchline to a joke.
With Autism Acceptance Month, around the corner, this just proves to all of us advocates, that there is more need for education. Education on diversity. Education on how to deal with the diversity of others.
In all seriousness, when it comes down to it, when opening your mouth to say anything, think to yourself, is this going to be something that is going to hurt someone? Is it something that is going to make me feel better and them feel smaller? And if it is, then don't say it. And if you feel the need to make a joke at someone's expense, it only makes you look like an asshole and then the joke is on you.