I do not know if I ever ended a relationship because of a joke. I confess that I have spent many years living on the edge of civility, with the intent of generating uncomfortable laughter. It is, I believe as mountain grown Folgers is, the richest kind. There is a point at which a jest in a particular vein might relieve tension generated by the stress surrounding a person, place or thing. I was one of those people who did not wait very long before making jokes at the expense of the death of John Lennon. My dachshund was doing an impression of the late Beatle not more than a few weeks after his murder. I also wondered aloud what John might be doing if he were still alive: Considering a reunion with the other lads from Liverpool? Recording an album of a capella love songs? Scratching frantically at the lid of his coffin?
Yes. I know. It is still in horrible taste, and decades later I feel the tiniest bit embarrassed for poking fun at expense of others' suffering. Not enough to never repeat the bit, using the most current celebrity to muse upon. And I did this because I care. My own reaction to John Lennon's death was one of foundation-rocking grief. Whether it was misguided (it was) or ill-timed (was it?) will be left for those who switched me off or tuned me out or put me on permanent mute to say. But probably not to me, since I have offended them so deeply.
Which is why I am a little conflicted by the reports that a White House staffer, Kelly Sadler, was openly dismissive of John McCain's opinion because "he's dying anyway." The gasp from the United States Senate was audible way out here in California, with members of congress from both parties expressing their outrage at this leaked attempt at humor. Bernie Sanders said, “It is beyond my comprehension. It is one thing in the White House for somebody to say something crude and stupid and disrespectful about an American hero. It is another thing for them not to apologize. So it is beyond my comprehension. And I just don’t know what goes on in that White House mentality for there not being an apology for that terrible remark.” Lindsay Graham said, “It’s a pretty disgusting thing to say. If it was a joke, it was a terrible joke. I just wish somebody from the White House would tell the country that was inappropriate [and] that’s not who we are in the Trump administration. John McCain can be criticized for any political decision he’s ever made or any vote he’s ever cast, but he’s an American hero.”
Here's what I can tell Ms. Sadler about comedy: Pain plus time equals comedy. I am pretty sure that implies that some time needed to pass, even a few days, before someone's death becomes fair game. I can understand her confusion, given who her boss is, but even I wouldn't go there.
And that's saying something.