Monday, August 22, 2016

Screw you if *_I_* can't take a joke

This Comedian Was Fined $42,000 for Telling a Joke:
"Unacceptable remarks made in private do not automatically become lawful just because they're made by a comedian in the public domain," wrote Judge Scott Hughes in his decision forcing Ward to pay Gabriel. "Plus, having a such a platform imposes certain responsibilities." Ward's mistreatment is a reminder of the importance of the First Amendment—something that doesn't apply in Canada. But it's also reminiscent of the current state of free expression on American college campuses, where administrators often behave as if they are not obligated to obey the Constitution. A recent documentary, Can We Take a Joke?, explores the death of comedy and challenges to free speech rights at universities and elsewhere ...
Well ... this is Canada.

But I wonder if America (with it's vaunted First Amendment Freedoms) isn't as likely to be as critical of a Jokester with a vicious streak?

The author of this article at Reason was obviously critical of the Canadian judge who arbitrarily imposed a fine of $42,000 on the 'perpetrator' of the canard.

The joke concerned Jeremy Gabriel, a 19-year-old Canadian singer who suffers from Treacher Collins Syndrome, a debilitating disease. Ward's joke was that the constant media coverage of Gabriel overlooks the fact that "he was supposed to die… why isn't he dead yet?" Ward suggests that Gabriel "stole a wish" and is now, in fact, unkillable.
An unkind statement?  Yes.
Cruel? Perhaps.
Actionable ... I don't know;  you tell me.

FROM THIS POINT ON, this is talking about children, not about comedians:

 Characteristics of Treacher Collins Syndrome include:
  • Down-slanting eyes
  • Notched lower eyelids
  • Underdevelopment or absence of cheekbones and the side wall and floor of the eye socket
  • Lower jaw is often small and slanting
  • Forward fair in the sideburn area
  • Underdeveloped, malformed and/or prominent ears
  • Most children with Treacher Collins have normal development and intelligence; however, it is important that there be early hearing tests. Most children with Treacher Collins Syndrome benefit from early intervention speech and language programs.
The unlettered explanation of the syndrome is that it affects very young people who look really ... odd.   The appearance is permanent; they never outgrow the distortion of their face and head.

Sounds like those afflicted have a lifetime of being 'different' to bear, and anyone who has that kind of life to look forward need a lot of support, not casual jokes.

I recall an evening in my childhood when my parents entertained a family whose child  was a victim of a sedative which their mother took during pregnancy. (Well, not a 'family' family; there was a child, and his mother, but I never met his father.)

 The drug caused their children to not develop arms .. at best, they had wings, which is the kindest way I can describe it.  Stunted arms, fingers like feathers, and a restricted range of movement.

The drug was called "thalidomide", and the effect on their (unborn) children was traumatic, but not always fatal.  Perhaps the unkindest cut of all, was that they were often born without arms or legs.  
But some had these little tiny underdeveloped arms or legs, and so they could at least experience some degree of normalcy.

It was over a half-century ago, so I cannot remember my playmate's name.  
(I think it was Vincent, so I'll use that here.)

When he and his Mother came to visit, Vincent he was a cheerful sort, and we spend the evening dropping marbles down a vacuum-cleaner tube to mow down plastic soldier-images, and he seemed to be having fun.

Vincent couldn't hold as many marbles in his under-developed hands as I could, so we made up rules about how many we could use; we decided on five as a useful number, and we fought those tiny green plastic soldiers for hours.  Our parents never once commented on the noise we were making.  Dropping marbles down vacuum-cleaner hard-plastic tubes is very noisy, so in retrospect I think they gave us a lot of ... forbearance.  I suspect they were glad to have found a friend for vincent.

I never could REALLY remember his name, and I never saw him again.  Which was something of a disappointment, because his joy at having ... I don't know, a playmate ... was contagious.  I have NO idea why his mother brought him back, because he was a fun pal.

I asked him why his arms were so funny, and he explained.  But I didn't understand and was too young to be critical.  I certainly could't remember the word "Thalidimide" .. I had to look it up this evening ... but I knew it as soon as I saw it, because Vincent told me about it, while we were playing.

Maybe that ability to be critical is a learned experience.   I was mowing plastic soldiers through a vacuum-cleaner extension tube out of sheer boredom, but he found it exciting.  I don't know which of us enjoyed it more, but I was so innocent at that time that I merely enjoyed the company of this funny looking boy.

They never came back to visit again.  I never understood why they were there, I never understood why they never returned.  I missed Vincent: he was such a joyous boy.

Since then, I've discovered a lot of things that I don't understand; 
I think it's a growing experience.

I don't know why people think that making fun of people who are physically different is funny.

And I don't understand why cruel people can be punished with a monetary fine.

The only thing I can think of is, people with such physical aberrations can take advantage of people with societal aberrations (making fun of them), and it's a way for society to transfer needed funds from successful people to people who need money.

And that's the part that I really, REALLY don't understand; when you put it in that context, it doesn't seem so bad.

I still wonder why he didn't come play with me again.  He was a lot of fun to play with, and he had an infectious laugh.

Besides, he let me win more than I lost.  Well, I did have an advantage.

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