We hear all the time about folks who are offended by ‘this’ and take offense at ‘that’. To this end, I feel it is my duty as a middle-aged American woman of Anglo-Saxon origin living in one of the most conservative states in the union to put a little bit of perspective to the issue of offense.
What offends one person doesn’t necessarily offend the masses. Take, for example, words typically used to address someone for whom you have some affection—you know, words like, “Honey”, or even “Dear”. I once worked with a woman who was offended when she was addressed as “Sweetheart” by a male colleague, and she did not hesitate to very publicly let him know that she was offended. She said that it wasn’t “professional” for a man to address her like that.
And for the record, she wasn’t just offended; she was highly offended. Damn.
What struck me about that conversation was not that she was pissed off that he called her “Sweetheart” but that she called him out about it in front of a large number of other staff members. That, to me, was the true faux pas. At the time, his term of endearment may not have been among the best choice from his arsenal of words, but her reaction was even worse, and not at all proportional.
But I can’t say that I was offended.
Since that time, I have noticed that too many people have jumped on the ‘offensive’ bandwagon—everyone from people in the public eye to those whose lives are more private. It’s as if folks are looking for a way to be offended just so they can publicly declare their outrage at the blatant violation of their civil liberties by an insulting, provocative, mean-spirited, distasteful, demeaning, and disparaging word or deed.
My, my, people certainly are prickly.
This begs the question: Is whatever that is branded as being offensive truly that offensive to warrant a huge fuss being made over it? Or is the behavior in question merely an instance of poor manners and bad taste?
Better yet, could you just simply and quietly disagree?
To wit: I was getting ready for work one morning when a commercial came on TV between the snippets of local news. This was shortly after President Obama first took office, and it was getting close to Christmastime (we’ll get to that little nugget later, I promise). An advertisement for a “Ch-ch-ch-chia” came on. The item in question was, indeed, the traditional water-the-clay-like-image-and-watch-it-grow thing-y; however, it was neither animal nor object; it was a bust of our forty-fourth president.
Water his head and watch it grow.
To say that I was shocked is an understatement. To say that I found the entire concept of a Chia Obama snarkily hilarious would be a truth that I am not afraid to admit. And here’s why:
It was audacious, it was bold, and it was in poor taste. Never had I seen a “Ch-ch-ch-chia” of any other president, and I could only gather that the reason the good people at Joseph Enterprises, Inc. thought this might be a good idea was that Mr. Obama is an African-American whose hair might grow in the same manner as chia seeds on a terra cotta image of him. Subsequently, the company produced other effigies of political figures, but Mr. Obama’s was the first.
Kind of like making farting noises with your mouth right after you’ve just farted.
Some, though, took offense at the Chia Obama and dubbed it as a racist representation of our nation’s first president to host a kegger in the Rose Garden. Bad taste? Yes. Offensive? Depends upon your name—is it Barak Obama? No? Then not offensive. Racist? Not even close.
“But Kelly,” you’re saying, “you’re not Black. How can you say that this isn’t offensive to African Americans?”
Because it’s a silly thing, that’s why.
Now, who is that person who is offended by the words “Merry Christmas”? I haven’t met this person yet, but when I do, he or she is going to get an earful from me. Please, would anyone whose day has ever been ruined by these words respond to me so that I can make things right with you?
You know what I think? I think that some people became so frightened of offending the rather small number of individuals who don’t celebrate the birth of Christ that they started this whole silly thing by not acknowledging the holidays. When my former employer, in the name of “diversity”, suggested that we begin referring to that blessedly long and stress-free two week Christmas vacation as “Winter Break”, I knew it was time to throw in the towel.
Americans have taken this “offensive” pity party too far. Why do people feel the need to place themselves in a suspect class so that they can feel empowered when someone says a word or makes a stupid move that they don’t like? What about the manner in which that stupid move reflects upon the person who made it? Isn’t that enough schadenfreude?
On a more serious note, the word ‘retarded’ has gotten a bad rap these days. When used incorrectly, it’s a disparaging modifier used to describe a person with intellectual challenges. Even worse, the word ‘retard’ is often used as a noun, sometimes even a proper noun, when referring to certain individuals.
But when you look at the true meaning of the word, ‘retard’ or ‘retarded’ is a word that means that growth has been slowed or stopped, so those who first used the term to describe people with intellectual challenges had the right idea—initially. It’s just that the term has devolved into something more demeaning—well, actually, just plain mean. So in this sense, it is correct to avoid using the word, unless you’re talking about pajamas.
Yes, I realize that there are many more words that slice into the hearts of men and women like Cutco knives and are best left alone, but can we all agree that when someone makes a bonehead move or says something completely stupid, the reflection upon the speaker or doer is enough to put the matter to rest? Must we suffer through your feigned sense of outrage, your shock and hurt feelings, your “victim-ness”, and your collective suspect class angst?
Get over it.
Misguided and destructive ideologies, on the other hand, do have the power to destroy lives and blight humanity. When words are used insidiously to weigh down and brand certain sectors of society in a negative manner, then the responsible thing to do is to end such rhetoric by not giving it an audience at all, thus denying this leviathan of negativity a platform from which to destroy. The message will soon reach the source of this ugliness that no one likes a hater.
But you can call me “Sweetheart”. Just don’t call me late for dinner.