Dingo Baby Slurs Aren't a Joke (But We Weren't Trying to Be Mean)

dingoI'm as guilty as anybody else: When I hear the words dingo and baby, I immediately start laughing; not because of the actual, horrific story that inspired the movie A Cry in the Dark, but because all I can hear is Elaine Benes on Seinfeld saying "Maybe a dingo ate your baby" in a faux-Australian accent.

So I felt a terrible stab of guilt reading about the emotional courtroom pleas given by Michael Chamberlain and Lindy Chamberlain-Creighton, the real-life parents whose baby was stolen from a campsite by a wild dingo.

The now-divorced couple sought to finally end the "malicious" innuendo and accusatory gossip which has haunted them for the past three decades.

Oh god ... those poor people! Can you imagine ... a dingo really did eat their baby!

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I can barely think about it without feeling like I'm going to be sick. And yet I've been laughing about it, in a roundabout kind of way, for years. So have a bunch of other people. Are we really that insensitive?!

Or maybe it's the opposite? In trying to figure out how it is that otherwise empathetic, kind-hearted (for the most part) people could make a joke out of such a tragedy, it occurred to me: Maybe we're compelled to make jokes out of tragedies because they are tragedies. As juvenile a coping mechanism as this may be, it's effective when everybody plays along.

What really happened is too nightmarish to accept, so let's just turn it into a silly joke. Phew, that's better.

I still feel incredibly guilty and sorry for laughing about the Chamberlains' loss, even if I didn't think it was anywhere in the same universe as funny. I guess the best I can do is try to think before I laugh, next time.

Do you understand why people make jokes out of tragic circumstances?


Image via Andy/Flickr

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