Being Funny Can Be Hazardous to your Health

Posted by Somebody's Mother on 3:23 p.m.
I’ve spent the past week reading about the cartoon controversy and the ensuing demonstrations and burning of embassies in the Middle East. Once again, I am challenged in this blog to add to the media frenzy with something more articulate than “Oh, wow” or “Yikes!” Frankly, it’s not easy because I could get into trouble. Luckily,the trouble that I will get into is not life threatening.
Critiques of some of my blogthat were meant to be funny have come in the form of mildly cajoling emails and one or two Letters to the Editor. I have been castigated for making fun of people who shop early for Christmas presents and for my continuous jibes about the College Street bridge in Lennoxville while it was being repaired. What I thought were gently humorous digs at every day life issues were taken quite seriously by readers and though I apologised for offending these readers, I did not apologise for writing my opinions and for describing my own observations of the world. Any columnist worth his salt welcomes this kind of criticism because it means that the blogs are being read and discussed
What I find completely frightening is what happens if a cartoonist, columnist or newspaper editor does not gauge his reading audience well and goes out of the bounds of what is thought to be good taste or appropriate standards. It’s a new world out there. Salman Rushdie wrote a book and received a death sentence for what he put in it. Do authors and cartoonists deserve to die because they express beliefs that are considered blasphemous by others?
I also wonder about the innocent victims of this controversy. I cannot understand why the embassies of these countries were burned down and why their industries are being boycotted. The guy who works on the floor of a Danish cheese packaging plant has absolutely nothing to do with the cartoonist who drew the controversial cartoons yet he is losing his job because that cartoonist and his editor didn’t use some common sense.
Anyone in our society has to recognize that there are lines that we all draw concerning free speech no matter how liberal we think we are. No sane person would allow a six year old to watch a pornographic film or a hard-core violent film. Most of us would think that the photos that the American soldiers took in the Abu Ghraib prison as a joke were horrible. Our society does not look kindly on jokes that humiliate minority groups or women or for that matter, jokes about the Holocaust. It’s something that you don’t put in a newspaper.
In Canada, we have used the expression, the Two Solitudes, to describe English and French Canada. This is nothing compared to the Two Solitudes that our world seems to have been divided into. Many people within the Middle East feel that it is their people who are dying in Iraq and Afghanistan and now the West is kicking their most sacred icons and principles that go beyond discussion: their religion, their deity.
In the West, we are used to making fun of everything, literally everything. Our stand-up comics crack jokes about God, racial groups, sex, you name it. We pride ourselves on the much cherished freedom to discuss and make fun of any topic that we want to. Yes, it’s a relief to live in such a world but in reality, the world we live in is a much smaller place as some Danish cartoonists found out in the past few weeks.
Whether we like it or not, there is another solitude out there and they don’t think that we’re one bit funny. This is a truly frightening reality and one that we will be dealing with for years to come. Both sides have got to start talking to one another instead of screaming; we have to find out about one another instead of aiming guns or cartoons.

Some things aren’t funny anymore; they are serious, deadly serious.



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