I don’t set out to offend or shock, but I also don’t do anything to avoid it. —Sarah Silverman
I am proud of the pictures above. The play of light and shadow around the partially clothed figure of a young Korean-American woman is both dramatic and beautiful in my eyes. I thought about using an image that was more erotic, but my purpose isn’t to offend anyone with material that pushes an edge. Rather, my purpose this morning is to demonstrate how easy it is to offend someone simply by having an opinion.
Offending people is apparently rather easy. About a month ago, I wrote an article about how living in a city full of foodies rather sucks. Somehow, the story was picked up by a local food blogger who posted a link to the article on her Facebook page. Having totally missed the point of the article (apparently I wasn’t clear enough for some people), she took offense and encouraged her followers to do the same. YAY! My hit count went through the roof the next three days!
Did her words negatively affect me in any way? Nope. I laughed. I’m still laughing. If I can offend some 2,000+ people with a little article about why we don’t eat at trendy restaurants, then how many people can I offend if I really try?
Apparently, the key to offending people is readers misunderstanding. If you skim, rather than reading every word, you might be offended. If you don’t click the supporting links (the grey text), you might be offended. If you form opinions without accurate information, you might be offended.
A Culture Of Self-Righteousness
Let’s be very clear exactly what I mean when I talk about a culture of self-righteousness. Dictionary.com defines the term “self-righteous” as follows:
[self-righteous. Dictionary.com. Dictionary.com Unabridged. Random House, Inc.
http://www.dictionary.com/browse/self-righteous (accessed: July 07, 2016).]
Notice the last portion of that definition: “intolerant of the opinions and behavior of others.” That is who we’ve become as a society. We have become so sanctimoniously self-righteous, not merely as individuals, but as a whole population, that anything that does not come from our own mind, or agree with our precariously cobbled opinion can offend us.
I laugh when I see self-righteous indignation coming from a six-year-old who is convinced we’re mean for not letting her have a bag of chips to take to bed with her. I’m not so amused when I see the same childish behavior from an adult. Such intolerance and smugness are disgusting character traits.
Furthermore, those of you who claim to be Christians, as many Americans do, are violating your own religious precepts. Here, let me provide those reference points for you:
There are similar passages in the Quran as well as Buddhist and Hindu texts. All major religions teach tolerance, compassion, and humbleness. None teach that we should beat each other up in the comment section. Yet, here we are, doing that very thing. Self-righteousness is so engrained we consider it part of our First Amendment right to free expression.
An Inclination Toward Ignorance
All that self-righteousness pushes us toward ignorance. We listen to part of a statement and quickly determine whether it agrees with our own opinion. If we think it does, we share it. If not, we flame it. We don’t bother to check whether the statement is valid. I can offend people with a totally true statement, provide them with the evidence supporting that statement, and they’ll still be pissed.
For example, yesterday’s article was all about checking sources. Inside that article, I provided multiple links to articles supporting our statements. We were able to offend some Republican supporters without them even reading the article! And of those who did read the article, how many people do you think actually checked any of the sources? One (thanks, Courtney).
Such willful ignorance leads us to make stupid, insipid, uninformed statements that serve no one. We react without thinking, without getting more information, without applying any sense of reason or logic. All we care about is our own opinion.
Case Study #1: Jesse William’s BET Acceptance Speech
Just in case you were unaware, Jesse Williams is an actor. He is best known for his role on the television series Grey’s Anatomy. I don’t watch the show, so I can’t make any comments as to the quality of his acting. However, he was recently presented with the BET Humanitarian Award. He gave what I thought was a stirring and inspiring acceptance speech. However, that speech managed to offend a whole truck-load of people. Here, watch the speech for yourself:
Jesse Williams speaks for us all and says what many of us have felt for a long time.
Almost immediately after the speech, someone started a petition on change.org to fire Mr. Williams from Grey’s Anatomy and boycott ABC, as though the network had anything to do with the content of the awards show. The petition was started by someone named Erin Smith, which is such a common name as to not be worth tracking. She was offended. She considers the speech racist. 23,000 people agree with her. Multiple counter-petitions were started in response.
Fortunately, those who actually have some say, such as Grey’s Anatomy producer Shonda Rimes, handled the petition appropriately.
Um, people? Boo don’t need a petition. #shondalandrules
— shonda rhimes (@shondarhimes) July 5, 2016
That’s it. No long statement to be debated. Just a short affirmation that she’s not going to let a stupid petition affect what is ultimately for her a business decision. Being offended achieves nothing.
Case Study #2: Liz Krueger’s Dress
Here’s the scoop: Mrs. Krueger is a nutrition and fitness coach. So, we shouldn’t be surprised that she has a trim and attractive body. Being trim and attractive (and married), she felt it would be safe to wear a dress to a friend’s wedding that compliments her body. She posted a picture of herself wearing the dress on Instagram. The response was not as positive as she might have hoped.
If only I knew that choosing this dress for a wedding on a 90 degree day meant so many women would be outrightly rude to me, and even come up behind me slap my ass as I’m standing alone. As quote ” it was a dare from her friends, bc I was a target.” And then proceed to spill a full beer down my arm👏🏼👏🏼👏🏼 Just one of maaaaany acts of kindness of the night! Yup. That happened. Good thing for thick skin, being able to laugh at things and not take it personally, and good friends/hubby by my side 👭👬👫👯 #adultsarebullystoo Regardless, we had one heck of s fun night and no “grown” women’s comments/glares could bring me down as a wedding guest:)
A photo posted by Liz Krueger (@mrslizkrueger) on
What’s worth noting is that it is other women whom the dress offends. The amount of bullying in the comments was outrageous. Then, the bullying carried over to other social media and was picked up by various sports and fitness magazines.
If someone can offend you for wearing a dress that makes their body look good, you should probably seek professional psychiatric help. You have a problem and you are a blight on humanity.
Case Study #3: House Democrats Boo Sen. Bernie Sanders
It was a closed-door meeting between Senator Sanders and House Democrats yesterday, so there is no C-Span video to corroborate the story. What allegedly happened was that a handful of congressmen booed the senator for not yet having endorsed the presumptive Democratic nominee for president. That part of the meeting is not public record, but information like that doesn’t stay quiet long. Within minutes, Politico had the story:
Bernie Sanders booed by House Democrats https://t.co/0OoDPnqdRR
— POLITICO (@politico) July 6, 2016
There are multiple points to be made here. First, that anyone booed a sitting Senator within the halls of Congress is an egregious violation of decorum and protocol. We expect our elected officials to act better, to be professional. Booing is childish and immature. Such actions are not appropriate for members of Congress.
Secondly, Senator Sanders is playing out a very specific strategy. Disagreeing with a strategy is not surprising nor unwarranted. That anyone would be butt hurt enough to boo him, however, demonstrates a severe level of ignorance and over-the-top self-righteousness. Get the fuck over yourselves. If you have a legitimate objection, state it appropriately and intelligently. Demonstrating your offense by booing is childish.
Case Study #4: We Keep Shooting Black People
Be warned, the video below was taken immediately following the shooting of Philando Castile by a Falcon Heights, MN police officer. It hurts to watch this, but you have no sufficient frame of reference for forming an opinion if you don’t.
NOW is when you should be offended. This comes less than 24 hours after Baton Rogue, LA police shot unarmed Alton Brown. While officials in Falcon Heights are trying to frame this as an exception to their normal manner of policing, the fact remains that Castile was shot for no damned good reason. Don’t tell me he should have behaved differently. Don’t tell me that his actions were threatening. Nothing excuses the fact that, once again, police shot an unarmed black man. We all need to be upset. If this doesn’t offend you, there is something terribly wrong with your sense of humanity.
I understand, being a police officer is difficult and that they must make snap judgments. I understand they are putting their lives in danger every time they make a traffic stop or respond to a 911 call. I get that. However, there is never a good reason for shooting an unarmed person. Furthermore, the fact that black people are victims at rates much higher than anyone else should be causing police everywhere to exercise greater restraint and caution. THERE IS NO JUSTIFICATION FOR THIS SHOOTING!!
Before You Argue
If nothing I’ve said or presented here offends you in any way, then perhaps I have failed in my quest to offend everyone. Maybe I should have talked about how much I dislike Indiana state government. Or I could just call you ugly, but that’s why we have mirrors. If I have managed to offend you, you are welcome to respond, but there are some rules.
- You must back up your opinion with fact.
- You must support your facts with legitimate sources, not right- or left-wing editorials.
- You must have read, in whole, any supporting material we provided above.
- You must frame your argument in complete sentences without using testing shortcuts.
Should you choose to not follow these rules, your argument will be deleted without response. I don’t mind you disagreeing, but you’re going to be civilized about it or your comments are invalid.
One Last Thing
There is a phrase that has the potential to offend anyone who has made it through unscathed to this point. According to the Urban Dictionary, the line is part of an old joke involving the Lone Ranger walking into a bar. It has since been used in multiple movies and countless conversations where one might wish to discount the opinions of another. I leave you with this phrase in hopes you are offended. I really don’t like to fail first thing in the morning. Here it is:
Fuck you and the horse you rode in on.
Have a good day.