There is a joke circulating around Facebook that has been getting a lot of attention and reaction. It's a photo of a math test of the type, "Bob has ____ candies. He eats X of them. What does Bob have left?" where a student has written, "Diabetes. Bob has diabetes."
A friend of mine whose son has Type 1 diabetes posted this joke and said his son's diagnosis hasn't changed the fact that it's funny. Of course, he was jumped on by several people who have Type 1 or have kids with Type 1. I posted saying that sugar does NOT cause diabetes (because that had evolved in the discussion) but that I could see how the joke, in context, was funny. (I mean, did a kid really put that on a math test? If so, that's funny!)
That same friend posted a link to a blog post that indicates that this joke has been getting a LOT of negative comments from Type 1s. People find it offensive, etc. People compared it to cancer, saying you'd never joke about cancer, that diabetes was just as deadly and serious, that kids (but not adults?) die of it. I stopped participating after my first post, because I didn't feel like arguing, and didn't even know how I really felt. I mean yeah, Type 1 is serious, but it's not a bad thing to be able to laugh about it, you can't take it seriously your entire life.
It got me thinking about my own thoughts ... I don't think it's a bad thing to be able to laugh at diabetes or other health conditions. But what is the difference between finding a joke harmless and finding it offensive? I live with blindness and there are a lot of blind jokes out there. I often find myself thinking, "They would never joke like that about race!" when I find a joke offensive. But yet ... there ARE lots of racial jokes out there. Do jokes feed into the larger problems of society? Do people of ethnic minorities find some jokes offensive and some acceptable, and what's the difference?
It's interesting the passion that the Type 1 community (parents in particular) bring to these kinds of reactions. My family was pretty laid-back about diabetes and tends to joke about it (and my blindness), so I'm not sure my parents would have participated in this type of reaction when I was younger. It did get me wondering if the energy involved in such a reaction (arguments, Photoshopping pictures, posting a whole "collage" of Faces of T1 Diabetes) could be better spent somewhere else? I mean, it's just a joke in the end, and I doubt people without diabetes think twice about it ... at the same time, perhaps jokes like this contribute to the public misconceptions about diabetes. And it's interesting that I haven't seen a single person with Type 2 post, even though sugar doesn't cause Type 2, either (and the original joke didn't even specify Type 1!).
Just some thoughts on a Thursday morning ... I'd be curious what others think about diabetes humour coming from outside the diabetes community.