Where’s the line?

There’s always been folk making jokes about terrible and tragic events. I’ve long assumed we all know someone like that – but maybe I’m just blessed. Despite working hard to be conscious of my words, and doing my best to avoid causing hurt, I can’t say that I’m politically correct at heart. While believing there are subjects which really aren’t funny, I always seem to have known people who know how to make me laugh – despite the inappropriate nature of the subject matter.

I was reminded of that fact when I received a joke about George Floyd shortly after his tragic killing, rapidly followed by the message “too soon?” And I’ll admit I was torn. I didn’t find it funny, but I know my friend is not racist, just as I know he’s not a misogynist, sexist or any other form of -ist … He is, however, irreverent, and has been able to make me laugh with inappropriate comments for many a year – even if not on this occasion.

I long ago accepted that my line is a personal one. Not personal just in regard to subject matter, but in regard to the teller. Things I find funny in the mouth of one person, I do not find funny in the mouth of another. For me, intent matters. Intent behind the words and the actions. And the only way you can judge intent is by knowing the individual concerned. And although that’s not terribly fair … it is honest.

I’ve been accused of allowing my friends a leeway I wouldn’t give to a stranger, and while that’s true, I can also hold them to a higher standard. I probably expect more from them, so can be left sad and disappointed to a far greater degree by the actions of a friend than a mere acquaintance. But isn’t that the nature of friendship?

Where’s your line? And is it different for different people – or am I just odd like that?

© Debra Carey, 2020

12 thoughts on “Where’s the line?

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  1. I used to draw my line based more on the particular personalities of people who I consider to be friends, but over the course of this year I’ve come to realize I have one line about certain issues. Issues like equality for all and misogyny for none. Anyone crosses those lines, I’ll let them know.

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  2. Hold to your line. I watched a sociopath who claims to be president trample the line. It was supposed to be a debate. It was anything but a debate. He interrupted the moderator and Biden continually. When Biden condemned all violence and law breaking during protests and the moderator ask Trump twice to condemn white supremacist and white militia violence instead he said “stand back and stand by”. He gave them a rallying call. Trump is the domestic enemy he is supposed to defend against. The man does not care what the Constitution or his oath of office say. He will do anything to seize and hold power.

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  3. I’m with Ally. I don’t let certain things slide anymore. I would like to know if I am unwittingly offending someone with my words, and so I let my friends and family know if they have said something that crosses a line with me, intent notwithstanding.


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  4. Ally, I admit this year has been challenging my previously drawn lines. With friends across the political spectrum, I’ve long been used to disagreeing with individuals, even if I try to do so in a polite, grown-up manner. But the scenario I mentioned did give me pause for thought. Probably what’s most telling is that while I am very fond of that friend, it is noticeable how little time we’ve spent together in recent times.

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  5. Deb, I’ll admit that I’m not great on confrontation. I’ve gotten better over the years with family, but friends I still find tricky. What tends to happen is I ease away from those friendships which have caused me sadness or disappointment by their actions or beliefs. A bit cowardly of me I know & I’d prefer to be more like you.

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  6. John, I’ll admit I’ve not tuned in to the debate, for I’m trying to control my inner rage over the whole current political scenario both here in the UK and over there in the US. Even by his standards, I was surprised when I read that “stand back and stand by” statement. Not just surprised, but horrified. I keep hoping that this November you’ll all be released from the horror.

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  7. Crikey Ally, that sounds like not much fun. Hope October behaves better for you.


  8. An interesting question. I think my line has probably moved a bit over the years. In my younger years, I’d have been more tolerant and wiling to accept off-color jokes, stories, etc. But no doubt because we’re all living in this harsh, bare knuckled atmosphere right now, I’m not willing to hear anything potentially racist or chauvinistic. For the life of me, I can’t ever see a time where a George Floyd joke would be acceptable anymore than one would be for Christopher Alaneme or Emmit Till. Thankfully, we’ll always have politicians to laugh at though. – Marty

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  9. Glad to see you back Debs! I hope that your ‘sluggish’ time was refreshing.

    Drawing the line has to have two aspects to it, I think. Firstly the public one although this is getting pretty fraught at the moment with any even slightly contentious views being attacked, ‘no platformed’ or censored. I would set that bar at something that denigrates and demonises a whole group of people for the shortrcomings of some. Faith groups and ethnic groups are particularly vulnerable here as ‘all Christians’ ‘all Jews’ ‘all Muslims’ – or any other boo group ‘immigrants’ as another prime example, are all treated as a homogenous whole.

    The second aspect is the personal, and this you touched on. Some groups use inappropriate jokes (or songs – think ‘rugby’ songs!) as a bonding device. Here I think that we each have to set our own boundary but not get too censorious if it gets clashed by somebody who doesn’t think the same. Nobody can ever have enough true friends.

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  10. Hi Marty, I think the experience of the line becoming firmer (and/or moving) over the years is what prompted me to write this. I’ve sensed a shift in myself and thought a discussion could help me navigate my ponderings. You’re right about politicians – although it’s bit way too tempting to cry all too often as well.

    Liked by 1 person

  11. Thank you Alan 🙂 It is good to be back. The funny thing is that by giving myself permission to be sluggish, I found my energy rushing back and was actually remarkably busy.

    You’ve voiced the conflict I feel most eloquently, thank you.


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