We live in a country that has transformed itself into one of the thinnest skinned, easily offended and offendable bunch of folks in the world. It doesn’t seem to matter what political affiliation, religion, race, gender, socio-economic group or Dodger’s fan a person is now days they are bound to be offended at something. We are getting as bad as the countries that have regularly scheduled Holy Days of Rage.
We now seem to live where almost everyone is offended at something and it matters not a whit what it may be, hell I even offend myself sometimes usually muttering to myself “asshole” when I do this. There are some people who almost seem to live with a chip on their shoulder. I call them the chronically offended who are quite often the most easily offensively offended. While most of the time trying not to give offense I have been known to offend the chronically offended, the merely offendable, and even the totally unaware with twisted or sarcastic comments and oddball humor which Judy tells me is not always as funny as I think it is. Nonetheless there are many people who are both patently chronically offended and very, yea verily very angry.
I am assured by the Deity Herself that such anger combined with a sense of being easily offended is not a good and virtuous combination. Now I know from experience that this is true. I am one of the guilty parties questioning the parentage and Oedipal tendencies of the idiots who move across four lanes of traffic without signaling on I-264 or who insist on driving 10 miles an hour under the speed limit on rural Eastern North Carolina highways. Sometimes I find that I wish that this was Iraq so my turret gunner could shoot them. Thankfully my newly honed skills using the force that I developed in Iraq, which I am told is actually hyper vigilance, does allow me to sense Kamikazes and tortoises well before I even see them.
I remember once about 15 years ago when I was a civilian hospital chaplain and stopped by a grocery store to pick up some food to take to work. An older gentleman was going toward the sliding automated door and out of simple politeness I said “Sir, please, after you.” Hell, the way I walk, which is as those who see me rapidly racing down the long halls of our medical center without breaking into a jog can testify is pretty fast, it was a safety thing too. I could have run the gentleman down had I not stopped to let him through first. In retrospect I think that I should have run him over but would not have been cool. I could have seen the newspaper headline in that town:
LOCAL HOSPITAL AND ARMY RESERVE CHAPLAIN SLAMS ELDERLY MAN TO GROUND TRYING TO BEAT HIM THROUGH KROGER DOOR.
That would not have been good. The man, instead of smiling and thanking me or even ignoring me stopped in front of the door, turned around and said “Why are you calling me sir? Why are you disrespecting me?” He said it very loud, very sharply and I was wondering what the hell was going on. There was hatred in his eyes. Not wanting him to pull out a concealed handgun I defused the situation by using humor. I said, “Sir, I call everybody sir, even ma’ams.” The man cocked his head; the fiery glint in his eyes gave way to a stunned look of confusion. He then shook his head, muttered something under his breath and went through the door. I didn’t know that being polite and respectful could be taken as offensive and disrespectful. Maybe when some young guy does that to me someday and I whack him with my tazer from my motorized scooter because I think he is being disrespectful I might understand. Of course I will probably one of those old guys that takes a perverse pleasure in tazing the offender and enjoying his writhing in pain and twitching all over the place. But then maybe not as I do have some sense of decorum, I would simply taze the twerp and keep going.
I knew a young Chaplain who was spouting off in a public forum once in a manner that did not offend me, but which I thought if certain other people read it could affect him and his career in a negative manner. This is no one that I have ever worked with, just someone that I know in passing. I was concerned for the young man, so I contacted him just to let him know to be careful and I got an earful, the little twerp blasted me with both barrels. I was really surprised at the venom with which he reacted to my comment which was only meant to help keep him out of potential trouble but no good deed goes unpunished. Maybe he will go to a self-help course, but then again, selves are very difficult to help.
Now I think everyone at some time has been offended by something or someone. Crap we are human; we can’t help but be, though I do find the Romulan that resides in me very appealing. However, to live my life is a perpetual state of offendedness is something that I refuse to do, even though I both give and take offense probably every day, especially during the morning or afternoon commute. Hell, judging by the number of people I have lost as friends on Facebook after I have written articles on this site I know I give offense, even when I don’t mean to.
I don’t want to offend anyone but when I look at the political extremes of our country and observe the words and actions of these people I am truly frightened for the country. People are talking about war against their political opponents and even revolution.
Our offendedness is not helped by the litigious nature of our society where lawsuits are as common as business suits. Someone gets offended and someone sues it’s almost a cause and effect principle. Someone else gets offended and pretty soon offensensitivity reigns and it is like half the country are Frank and Estelle Costanza on steroids. Serenity now!
Now our electorate is so spun up by the loudest and most shrill accusatory voices in the media and politics that it is frightening. Politics especially has become venom filled and hatred driven. A lot of our electorate is now so polarized and offended by anything anyone else says that there is almost a civil war going on. Albeit a war without weapons marching armies and crashing cannon, but instead being waged with great energy on the airwaves and on the internet with occasional talk of secession or armed revolt by one side or the other depending on who’s in power. Politicians and political parties are no longer opponents, they are mortal enemies. Sometimes interest groups within the various parties opt for a no-quarter approach to how they do business pushing their parties further to the extreme. The Pelosi type Democrats did everything that they could to push conservative’s buttons and now conservatives led by the Tea Party are taking no quarter even in the Republican Party. The attitude of both sides is “if you aren’t totally with us on everything you are against us.”
Caricatures and sound bites suffice for truth for many people regardless of them being on the left or right wing of the body politic. It is true at least as far as practice that the extremists in both major parties have more in common with each other than they do the middle where traditionally most Americans live.
Thus with a highly divided, hypersensitive and easily offended we are heading for big trouble unless people stop taking themselves so seriously and get about with finding a way to cooperate and make things work. I know that is important to remain principled, but there is also a duty to be civil and respectful even when critical of a person’s position or presentation.
I was reminded of this fact early in the history of this site when I criticized a pastor’s non-theological remarks which he had posted as a comment. My criticism of him was unduly harsh and cynical in tone, and when this was pointed out by a friend I modified the article to make the same point without purposely sky lining the individual in what could be seen in a disrespectful, uncharitable and even un-Christian fashion. I may be a passionate moderate but it is important for me to keep a sense of decorum in what otherwise could be an unseemly brawl. The criticism of how I handled the initial post was valid and sometimes I have to tell myself that restraint, respect and civility is a virtue, even if I think I am right. So please don’t take offense if you deem me offensive or if I have offended the chronically offendable. After all, restraint, respect and civility are one the one thing that separates us Humans, Vulcans and Romulans from the Ferengi.