I had a knee-slapping story to tell you today that would have made you laugh till your sides hurt but I can't tell it because it might offend some hypersensitive victim.
As a humorist I must say that it's not very easy being funny these days because most potentially amusing subjects are now out-of-bounds and off-limits because they might hurt someone's feelings. There used to be entire genres of jokes that friends used to swap: brunettes would tell jokes on blondes, Lutherans would poke fun at Catholics and Italians would make jokes at the expense of Portuguese. And vice versa. Texans told funnies about Californians, North Dakota heard jokes about its weather and New Yorkers ganged up on New Jersey. It was all in good, clean fun. But we don't tell such jokes much any more because they might make someone feel ill at ease. We think of ourselves as being more sensitive and I think that's the problem... we're all just a little too thin-skinned if you ask me, and life sure is a lot less funny as a result.
To be on the safe side a person can't write about women, wolves, whiskey, gays, Methodists, bankers or fat people any more. Oh I'm sorry, I should have said “gravitationally challenged” instead of fat. If I mention a cowpoke was driving a Ford the Chevy drivers get mad. Praise the Duroc breed and the Yorkshire breeders get their undies all in a bunch. Talk about headers and the heelers get their feelings hurt.
I don't even know what to call people any more. Is Michael Jordan an African American or a black? Am I white, Caucasian or a honky? Do unwed women like to be called Miss or Ms.? Do people from Mexico prefer to be called Latino or Hispanic? Is the word Mexican acceptable or have I just committed another social injustice?
We don't have the time or the space to tell interesting stories any more because we are so busy apologizing. I know the Indians were treated poorly in the settling of this country but folks, this may come as a surprise to many of you and I know I'm getting old, but I WASN'T THERE when it happened. I never killed any Indians, although I do try to apologize every time I go to the casino by giving them lots of money.
Mere words cannot begin to express the degree to which I am sorry about the inhumane treatment of workers in China and the disappearance of wild animals in Africa. Sure I feel terrible that people and animals are being treated so horribly but I have never gone on safari and I don't shop at Wal Mart. There is not a single head of water buffalo hanging in my house nor are there any zebra-skin rugs. I do, however, own a piano with fake ivory keys. I hope that is all right with everyone.
I suppose I should do what Congress did and issue a formal apology for slavery but, for the record, I have never owned a slave. Although, I must admit that my wife is married to one. I am not making light of a terrible scar on this country. Slavery was inexcusable, it's just that how can I issue a heartfelt apology for something I didn't do? It would be like a politician's promise: meaningless.
Not that I've been a choir boy. I have written some things that, in retrospect, I see now may have been offensive. I hit the trifecta of insensitivity when I said that many Hollywood PETA members were outscored on IQ tests by single celled organisms. I was totally out of line and I apologize to amoebas everywhere.
I probably should not have said a Washington bureaucrat had the personality of a garden tool and so, once again, I apologize to all the bubbly hoes, shovels and rakes out there. And deep down in my heart I know that I shouldn't have named a horse Bean Dip just because he suffered from equine irritable bowel syndrome and had more gas than the Goodyear blimp. Oops, there I go again. To the blimp people, lentil lovers everywhere and Bean Dip, both the horse and the delightful but sometimes gaseous snack food, I offer my sincerest apology. Please don't sue me.