Red Skelton wrote “This Is No Joke” during his first year in the Army. It was published in the September 1946 issue of Classic Comics. This photo of the column was taken at the Red Skelton Museum in Vincennes. I originally found this at KPCnews.com
I’m in the Army now. I’ve been in for more than a year. Back home I thought I knew America. I took the Declaration of Independence for granted, and the Bill of Rights. I took democracy for granted, and all our great freedoms. Because in my field a man was taken for what he was — and no one gave a moment’s thought as to whether he was a Christian or a Jew, a white or a Negro, a Protestant or a Catholic — I thought that held good for all America.
I was mistaken. I hear some talk among soldiers that shocks me. It opens my eyes. These fellows are being told in training courses that we are fighting this war to defeat fascism — and fascism gains power by spreading disunity; by stirring up hates between peoples because they happen to go to different churches, or have skins of different color, or have different family trees.
But the boys said to me: “If that’s what fascism is, then we know some people back home who are fascists. For they try to do exactly what Hitler and Musso did before they got bumped off. They’re always yelling about Catholics or Jews or foreign-born or Negroes being no good. What are we fighting here in Europe for if those stay-at-home birds go on pulling the same stuff like Hitler did?”
These soldiers I was talking to were in a hospital. They were badly wounded guys who had been through the mill and the Army had given me the job to cheer ’em up with my usual corny jokes. They laughed all right, these fellows; but I wasn’t laughing.
“How do you feel about this business of racial and religious prejudice?” I asked them.
“Who, us?” They looked at me surprised. “Listen, Red, out here in combat areas there ain’t no such thing as a different race or religion or color. We’re buddies, see. You don’t ask the guy who picks you up when you’re hurt and who risks his life to get you back to safety: ‘Hey, feller, are you a Jew?’ Or the guy who bayoneted a Nazi just as he was about to rub you out: ‘Pardon me, sir! Where did your folks come from?’ We know the score.”
“That’s right, Red,” chimed in another. “But we’re worried about when we get home. The folks back home — some of them, at least — still don’t know the score. Will you tell ’em for us how we feel? We don’t want when we get back into civvies to hear the same old Hitler tripe.”
I forgot to pull that swell joke I was saving for the end. “I sure will, fellows,” I said.
That’s why I’m telling you this now. I’m speaking for the fellows who went through the mill. Next time you hear someone say: “Oh, he’s a Jew!” or “We don’t like Catholics!” think of those wounded boys in the hospital, and tell off that trouble-raising guy as best you know how.
You’ll be doing the soldiers a favor; and you’d be doing the America we all love a greater favor.