Splinters and Factions and Groups, Oh My!
By Jim Kuiken
It seems like you can’t go five minutes without hearing about or seeing someone claim that something is “offensive” nowadays. You see it on Facebook especially, but also on many other outlets…even national news broadcasts. Someone is always offended about something.
It’s racist. It’s reverse racism. It’s male chauvinism. It’s feminazis. It’s homophobic. It’s a red cup. It’s a nativity scene. It’s the name of a sports team. People not speaking English in the US. People not making accommodations for other cultures. God. Allah. Atheism. Christians. Muslims. Jews. Fascist Conservatives. Communist Liberals. Etc, etc, etc…(ad nauseam).
I get it that words matter. I also get it that words and actions are offensive to people and groups. Sometimes (and probably more now than ever), they are intended to be that way. You’ve all seen the “trolls” on various social networking sites…just sitting there waiting for someone to say something or express opinions so they can jump out from under the bridge and say something offensive to get everyone riled up. Some do it for fun, but it is my opinion that most do it for attention. That’s sad, that they feel so worthless that they need the attention, even negative attention… I ignore them and let them crawl back under their nasty little bridge.
It’s ironic that the very culture, the very laws, and the very constitution that gives those rights to speak freely – and the very people who step up to defend those rights for all in the United States are also found offensive by people who live under those protections.
It’s as if by ensuring the rights to freedom and free speech, we implant a self-destruct mechanism that allows for those free people to openly express themselves and act in a way that brings about the destruction of that very system.
Well…that’s the way it rolls. Under our system, we are allowed to express our opinions, even if they offend someone else – and they will.
It also appears that the very fabric of our society is fracturing and splintering into many increasingly divergent groups, moving farther and farther away from each other – and increasingly hostile to other’s opinions and positions. The liberals seem to be more liberal (or progressive), the conservatives seem to be more conservative (or regressive), and the middle is more and more isolated from the extremes. And each of these splinters and factions and groups is more and more vocal and strident with their rhetoric. Many are becoming hateful, directing nasty personal attacks against those they don’t agree with, rather than debating or discussing the policies, issues and philosophies.
This leads to a whole lotta folks being “offended”. That seems to be the big thing, as if not being offended is a right. “That’s offensive” or “I find that offensive” is supposed to squash the opposition, stop them in their tracks. Since when does someone have the right to not be offended?
If you can stop other’s opinions and arguments by being “offended”, and they then have no right to express that opinion, that’s curtailing free speech. The very first amendment to the constitution guarantees that right of free speech.
Political correctness does not trump the right of free speech…although it seems to be doing so at an alarmingly ever-increasing rate. On college campuses. On social media. On many news media outlets. In public. On comedy shows. Hell (oops…sorry, didn’t mean to offend you), just about everywhere!
The antidote to that is multi-layered. Do not allow others to squash your free speech (expressing opinions) by enforcing Political Correctness over your 1st Amendment Rights. Do not deliberately offend others, but do not shy away from meaningful discussions.
I don’t like foul language in public. There is no place for nasty language in a normal conversation, especially in public areas. Others may feel differently. I find it uncouth and ignorant. Use respectful language with others. That does not preclude you from making your point – sometimes vehemently.
I believe in discussing policies, beliefs, cultures, and pretty much anything…I do NOT believe in attacking the person expressing their beliefs, or in using deliberately foul or offensive language in those discussions. That shuts down any meaningful dialogue, and ensures a permanent divide.
Other people offend me all the time. I don’t jump up and say “that’s offensive”, with my lower lip pushed out in a pout, and feeling all hurt. If it’s not worth my time, I ignore it and move on – which is the majority of the time. If I disagree in a substantive way, or feel the need to voice my opposition, then I speak up. At the substance of the statement, argument, opinion, etc…not at the person themselves. If someone directly attacks me intending to do harm, I defend myself or my opinion. I don’t back off, cower or whine because I’m “offended”.
Am I going to offend some people? Absolutely. Am I going to do it deliberately? Absolutely not. But I am not going to hide my opinion, beliefs, or anything else because I might offend someone or not be politically correct. If someone is offended, they can bring it to my attention, and we can talk about it in a civilized, rational way. If they don’t like that, I don’t care. Grow the (“h” word again…sorry) up.
The long and short of it is, if I offend someone we can talk it out, they can suck it up and move on, or they can petulantly tell me “that’s offensive”, expecting me to kowtow to the almighty PC. The first two work for me. Not so much the third.