In my adolescence, any number of unsavory jokes circulated about killing baby kittens, puppies, or infants. There is a definite cultural taboo in making fun of viciousness in imposing suffering and death upon the defenseless. But jokes making people laugh out of shock still percolate through society. Despite being reprehensible, people find dark humor in the unthinkable.
Levity is a way of finding a pressure valve to relieve stress; to rescue some degree of psychological well-being from the unthinkable. No matter how stomach-churning, someone will make a joke about it. Whether we admit it or not, dark humor reflects our helplessness in the wake of horror. We find humor in things to make them less threatening. It is the inner fear of society that produces sick humor. But a joke about dead puppies is an abstraction that occurs only in the mind’s eye. I doubt many of us would laugh to actually see them being tossed into a tree chipper. As is the case of school shootings.
In preparing this post, I came across a site labeled: “Hilarious Sandy Hook Jokes That Will Make You Laugh.” Of course, nothing is off-limits in this country anymore. I can’t imagine the parents of those murdered children are laughing along, nor are those of the 19 elementary school kids killed by a monster in Uvalde, Texas. But it’s a societal coping mechanism in the face of body-shredding firepower that can turn an elementary classroom into a large killing zone. Because there is no escape from conscience-destitute 2nd Amendment fetishists, the next school shooting is inevitable, unavoidable. There will be many more times of danger, desperation and death. We know that from the simple fact that school is about to start again. This unremitting string of terrible cruelties produces constant angst over the next mass tragedy. It’s coming, and we feel there’s nothing that can be done to prevent it. And so, we resort to humor as a soporific that gives us psychological remove; a sublimation of our innermost fears. In the back of our minds, we’re worried about what might happen tomorrow after we drop our kids off at school”,
Death isn’t in any way funny to me, especially when it involves slaughtering the innocents. St. Paul wrote, “whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable – if anything is excellent or praiseworthy – think about such things”. I detest dead children (or dead pet) jokes, but my concern here is not with so much them, as with the dead children themselves and their devastated families. People should be shocked into restorative action by school shootings, not mollified by morally-putrid jokes to help themselves cope. If we felt the pain of every grieving parent, none of us could withstand the weight of it. That their children’s’ blood cries out to all of us from the ground makes all the more reason to see that we should.
“The sound of children screaming has been removed.” The Austin American-Statesman presented a leaked video account of the 77 minute clusterfuck response of cowardly police otherwise sworn to protect and defend. “We have removed the sound of children screaming…We consider this too graphic.” I think they should have allowed all of America to hear the carnage a gun did. An (semi) automatic is like a sewing machine in reverse. Instead of knitting together, it systematically rips its target to shreds. “This is a very devastating set of injuries,” the Connecticut medical examiner who performed the Newtown autopsies reported. “Their wounds were all over, all over.”
I’m all in favor of more aggressive advocacy. We see it already in other contexts. Like the gruesome pictures required on EU cigarette packets of very ill smokers. Or, the annual drunk driving/post fatal crash re-enactment on the high school campus, like my daughter’s school did to warn kids just before Prom Weekend. Perhaps we should consider publishing school shooting autopsy photos so graphic you couldn’t un-look. There are obvious privacy aspects in play here, but if Americans were confronted by the non-unseeable and non-unhearable, we’d be steps ahead in developing moral outrage and “good trouble” to remove child-killing machines from our land.
As Common Dreams reported:
“Note to America: When her son Emmett was savagely murdered in August 1955, Mamie Till demanded his mutilated body lie in an open casket so the world ‘could see what they did to my baby.’ Sordid fact: Mass murder of kids is graphic. Let their screams resound.”