I don’t consider myself a particularly evil person. I get angry, for example when I’m overpowered by somebody who grabs my arm and keeps slapping me hard in the face with my own hand, asking solicitously why I keep hitting myself. I may have a lower threshold for being bullied than a more highly evolved earthling, but I do my best to remain as mild as I can, under circumstances that sometimes make mildness seem a very unappealing option. Anger is a good warning system, it seems to me, not to give in the urging of righteous, enflamed feelings and do something outright evil. And yet…
The other day I saw a piece quoting the evangelical minister of a mega-church, telling his flock, in a packed church, at a time when more reasonable people were “social distancing” all over the world, that faith protected him from COVID-19, that the Lord would protect all the faithful. He added a nice underscore to the effect that AND YOU CAN TAKE THAT TO THE BANK, PRAISE GOD! A couple of weeks later this man of God was dead of COVID-19. It immediately struck me as a rare instance of justice, a wonderful “good for you” joke on a pompous, influential, ignorant jackass. I posted the short news item here.
So a fellow citizen, as opinionated as any of us have an absolute right to be, died a horrible death in ironic circumstances and I took in his death only as a great punchline. Never thought about it any other way.
Served the ignorant snake-oil selling motherfucker right, was my only thought as I posted it here, thinking myself wry, for the few and the misguided to read. Good joke, no? “God loves and protects righteous people like me, this so-called virus is God’s message to the accursed non-believers, ignore what these people of no faith are telling you… oh, shit, I … I … can’t breathe…. what in Lord’s name? Ahhh, get me… to … the h-h-hospital…”
Is it really funny? Yes, and definitely also not funny at all. Is it funny to laugh about a death sentence someone got just for being a fool or a blowhard? Laughing about it reminded me of what I read years ago about the officially approved humor of the Third Reich, at a time when other humor was increasingly punishable by death . Nazis were not without humor, many of them loved to laugh. What made them laugh? A good, spicy Jew joke was surely a winner at the old brauhaus. A joke about Hitler being a little nuts? The weakest penalty for that was referred to as the “Hitler Cut”– castration.
Hoo, boy, right away, a bee line to that dark place with the Nazis…
Am I saying it’s wrong to laugh when a bully of some kind, while berating you and brandishing a club to beat you with, slips on a banana peel and lands wrong, cracking his skull and spilling his brains out on the sidewalk? Of course not. I’m just saying… what have we come to as a species when we “wise apes” celebrate the actual deaths of people who espouse views repugnant to our own? Put the shoe on the other foot, picture a death sentence for someone you agree with for expressing what you both believe, it’s easy to see the sickness of it.
Hypocrisy is not a crime, though, in the absence of all other sports and most entertainments during this plague, it’s become something of our national pastime here in our gruesomely divided states of America.
 Richard Grunberger had a chapter on Nazi humor, if I recall correctly, in his The Twelve Year Reich, A Social History of Nazi Germany 1933-45.
About the tome, from Jeff Bezos’s ad: