It has come to this: two weeks ago, in Washington, D.C., a woman was convicted and sentenced to a year in jail… for laughing.
Desiree Fairooz, a white-haired lady of 61 years of age, was seated in a Senate hearing room in January, attending hearings on whether or not Sen. Jeff Sessions should be confirmed as President Trump’s Attorney General.
“Sen. Richard Shelby (the other Senator from Alabama) was tasked with making compliments about Sen. Sessions,” Desiree told a reporter, “and one of them seemed ridiculous to me and I involuntarily laughed.”
That prompted a Capitol Hill police officer to come over to her, tell her she was under arrest, and march her away.
Desiree’s conviction is actually for what happened next: she protested rather loudly about being marched away, holding a sign.
This, apparently, constitutes “disorderly conduct” and “parading on capitol grounds.”
But none of it would have happened if she hadn’t been arrested for laughing.
For the record, the comment by Sen. Shelby that set Desiree off was that “(Sessions’) extensive record of treating all Americans equally under the law is clear and well-documented.”
There is in fact a good deal of documentation of the exact opposite, but that’s not the point.
The point is that the only thing Desiree did wrong was to have something land on her funny bone.
She laughed, and it got her arrested, and all the rest followed. Now she may well have to spend a year in jail.
There are some very thin skins in Washington, D.C., these days.
Sen. Elizabeth Warren found this out while attempting to read her colleagues a letter, also about Mr. Sessions, from Martin Luther King, Jr.’s widow, Coretta.
The thing is, that letter was already a part of the Congressional Record.
But no matter. Sen. Mitch McConnell accused Ms. Warren of violating “Rule 19,” famously saying of Warren, “She was warned. She was given an explanation. Nevertheless, she persisted.”
Oddly, other senators were allowed to read the very same letter the next day, with no repercussions.
Perhaps it’s a coincidence that they were all men.
Or perhaps there’s a pattern here.
I am especially upset about the case of Desiree Fairooz. It’s partly because she’s my age, but mostly because, as she herself said, she couldn’t help it.
“I just couldn’t hold it,” she said. “It was spontaneous.”
That could have been me. It could so easily have been me.
I have been accused of laughing inappropriately all my life — I have a dangerously low threshold for ridiculosity —so I know that it’s something you really can’t help.
Just ask Mrs. Herman, in 2nd grade, who put me out in the hall for using a line from a popular cartoon show about a mouse named Herman: “Hey, Herman — are you a man or a mouse?”
I was asked to leave more than one friend’s Bat Mitzvah, because I couldn’t keep from giggling during somebody’s exceedingly dull speech (probably the rabbi’s).
But at least I wasn’t arrested!
What is this nation coming to, when a woman can be dragged out of a public place (a place that her tax dollars have paid for, most likely), for the mere crime of laughing?
Men are fond of telling us women that we are too emotional. But we don’t go around arresting people just for laughing at us. Alas, these days, apparently, speech — and laughter — are not free if they hurt the feelings of a man. Which doesn’t bode well for the human race.
I don’t want to shock anyone, if this is coming to you as news, but — spoiler alert —women have been laughing at men since the dawn of time!
And if we can’t do that, without being arrested, I really don’t see how our species is going to make it to another generation… because I don’t see men ceasing to make total laughing-stocks of themselves any time soon.
I think that what the thin-skinned men of Washington are really looking for is respect.
But they should know this about respect: It can’t be demanded; it can only be earned.
Nowadays, we have a President who has bragged, over an open microphone, about how he is able to just “grab women by the pussy.”
So here’s one more thing to know about respect:
It’s a two-way street.