I came from a family of card players and Catholics and on each side of my family there were plenty of characters and wry wits and joke tellers. I think they were mostly all kind people without any real malice in their hearts. But it was the seventies and times were different. I bet the first 25 jokes I ever heard were racist, sexist or homophobic. Told not with a hateful spirit but with an easy laugh and an un-aware ignorance. Sure, I heard bigoted things, but they were brushed off or ignored or soon forgotten.
As I watch these days unfold, I think about those days. An innocent joke that has an underlying cruelty. An insensitivity that actually really hurts.
I’ve been guilty of it myself at times in the past. I’m no saint. But I’m trying to be better.
My most basic philosophy is this: We’re all the same.
If you’re Irish, your people have been persecuted.
If you’re Christian, your people have been persecuted.
If you’re black, your people have suffered unspeakable cruelty and continue to be mistreated.
If you’re a woman or a man, your sisters and mothers and daughters have been persecuted.
If you’re gay, you have been persecuted.
If you’re Jewish, you’ve been persecuted.
If you’re Muslim, you’ve been persecuted.
If you’re Japanese, your family has been interned.
If you’re Indigenous, you’ve been a victim of genocide.
If you have disabilities, visible and not, you’ve been persecuted.
If we don’t stand up for the weakest among us, they’ll eventually get to each of us and all of us. Again.