It is not clear how much time must pass before it is OK to joke about a tragedy. 70 years? It may still be too soon to do Pearl Harbor bombing jokes. But clearly, one week is not enough.
Stacey Campfield, a Tennessee State Senator, posted a photo, like the one below, of a pressure cooker labeled “Assault Pressure Cooker.” The photo also included arrows pointing to features line a “muzzle break thingy that goes ‘up'” and a “tactical pistol grip.”
Campfield’s point, or so he says, was to mock the comments of gun control advocates after the Sandy Hook shootings.
ABCNews.com says Campfield refuses to apologize and says he was making fun of false double standards — not the very real deaths caused in Boston by genuine pressure cookers filled with explosives.
If you have a policy point to make after a tragedy – you can do so in a serious fashion. But you are likely to alienate far more people than you will persuade if you appear to be making light of a very dark subject.
Campfield wasn’t the only politician who lost sight of the fact that jokes of any kind may not go over too well in certain circumstances.
The Weekly Standard reported today that Vice President Biden, speaking at a memorial service for murdered MIT policeman Sean Collier today decided to get a little folksy.
In his remarks Biden said: “One of my favorite poets is Seamus Heaney.” Adding “I know the congressman thinks I always quote Irish poets because I’m Irish. That’s not the reason I do it. I quote Irish poets because they’re the best poets and that’s the reason why,” Biden said to nervous laughter. “And the Collier family knows that, right?” Biden continued, “But all kidding aside…”
There will be people who think Biden’s attempt at humor was fine — just an effort to lighten the mood. And there are, no doubt, people who think Campfield’s photo makes a legitimate point. But knowing that there will be a large number of folks who cringe at the comments of both men — why annoy them now?