Most of y’all know me well enough to know that I strongly believe that we, as a society have an obligation towards equality: gender equality, racial equality, marriage equality. Everyone deserves the same rights and opportunities, and the government has the responsibility to make sure no one is materially harmed by their policies. State sanctioned hatred, bigotry, and discrimination is wrong, and hurtful. And there is no place for it in our government. I’ve also made the choice that there is no room for it in my life.
I also believe, just as strongly, that there is no obligation by the government, or any other major entity to “protect us” from being offended. And I certainly don’t want anyone like Apple, Amazon, or Walmart to decide which offensive things are okay and which ones are not.
Because here’s the deal: in spite of the fact that I may share one or several common opinions with each of you, every single one of you will find a point of disagreement with me, or someone else, on what is offensive somewhere. As a society, we seem to have lost sight of the difference between materially damaging someone’s ability to get a good job, rent or buy a house, or marry the person they love (because tax breaks and and health insurance, y’all), and getting our feelings hurt or getting offended.
Bad manners in general kill me, but oh, my goodness, watching or listening to someone work their food, like a cow chews cud, drives me up a wall. And I get truly offended that people can’t think enough of common decency to let those around them enjoy their meal. And don’t get me started on bad grammar. Does this mean I get to demand that there be a law against it? As much as I joke that there should be one, no. Because no one is being materially harmed, and there is no legal responsibility to protect my delicate sensibilities. And you know what? Stores like Walmart are covered with t-shirts and posters with half naked women, in suggestive poses, and idiotic sayings. And yeah, they’re offensive. But as long as the women posing are of age, and were legally paid for their time in the photo shoot, then I get to be offended, wonder aloud why anyone would want to even own such a thing, and move on.
He same holds true for the Confederate flag. Or the Nazi flag. Or any other slimy, offensive thing out there. Others are free to buy all they want, and I’m glad of it. Makes moving through the world easier…it’s like a big name tag that people can wear, “Hi! I’m George, and I’m an intolerant jerk!” Those folks are identified at a distance, and I never have to even acknowledge their existence. And, in this case, we each had a choice. Greorge could choose to be a jerk, and I could choose to be offended, then walk away. And as long as neither of us were materially harmed by our opinions, we move on. I really think, though, that if everyone would move through the world actively being kind to one another, there’d be a lot less to get really offended about.
Okay…left field conspiracy theory here, but it bears thinking about: when we are fed stories, and get all wound up about being protected from being offended, guess where we aren’t spending our energy? Yep, protecting each other from the injustices that cause real harm. And not only is that sad…it’s scary as hell. It’s the modern day equivalent of rearranging the deck chairs on the Titanic as it’s sinking. And we have to stop.
So put on your big girl and big boy panties, get out there, and quit worrying about being offended, and try to affect some real change.