The Forbidden Joke

During the inauguration, comedian Katie Rich made (and later deleted) a stupid twitter joke that Barron Trump was going to be “the first home-school shooter.” It was a shitty thing to do. I’m disinclined to rake her over the coals too much because even before our President regularly tweeted offensive insults, I’d reached a state of twitter scandal exhaustion – I think in about 2013, when that PR flak got fired for tweeting a dumb AIDS joke. I just can’t put tasteless jokes at the top of my list of problems.

For what it’s worth, I suspect (this is pure speculation) Katie Rich didn’t mean to make fun of Barron, who is famously not homeschooled. (You hear it in every news report that mentions him: Barron and Melania will stay in NYC so he can finish the school year at his school.) Knowing how it is to be a creative person, I suspect Rich’s first thought was along the lines of “he looks like he wants to kill his parents for dragging him to this boring thing,” which is not a joke about Barron but observational humor about what it’s like to be 10, and when she tried to juice it up to make it less trite, she had Betsy DeVos on the mind and wound up firing off something muddled and unintentionally vicious. Dumb.

However, if you are ever thinking about writing something mean about Barron – not that I think any of you would – please don’t. This is personal for me. About 20 years ago, when Rush Limbaugh routinely mocked teenage Chelsea Clinton for being awkward and chubby and frizzy-haired and braces-wearing, I was a teenager who was awkward and chubby and braces-wearing. And I wasn’t even the president’s daughter.

At a developmental stage that was already difficult, it made me feel awful about myself to know that if I ever came into the public eye, this man and his thousands of listeners would laugh at me for something beyond my control. Fortunately, I was surrounded by compassionate conservatives who were not like Rush, who mentored me alongside the liberals and moderates. But I can’t say it didn’t have an effect. Those few years when Chelsea, Hillary, and Monica were relentlessly targeted are the same ones where my life goals switched from “empress of the universe” to “clever person working behind the scenes unbothered in corners where nobody’s paying much attention.” (Which I don’t exactly regret. It’s pretty fun.)

My point is, a vague and generalized joke about Barron doesn’t just hit Barron, or stick it to his parents. A vague and generalized joke about Barron is going to hurt other introverted 10 year olds who hear it. None of them deserve it. Stuff’s already hard for introverted 10 year olds.

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