Child's Play, The Citizen, June 2019 Waiting to be Offended

Gregory K. Moffatt, Ph.D.

We have way too much free time on our hands.  It is as if we are sitting around just waiting for something to offend us.  In just the past couple of weeks I've read news stories about people who are offended by so many things I can't keep up with them all.  Just recently students at the University of Oregon have petitioned the college to remove a "generic statue" of a pioneer because it is "offensive."  A protestor equated the statue of the pioneer to a statue of Ted Bundy.  Not really a rational comparison, I don't think.

One of my dear friends was told recently in his workplace that they no longer would use "he or she."  The gender neutral term "it" must be used in order to avoid accidentally offending someone.  Really?  I'm not opposed to politically correct language.  If we can avoid hurting people, why wouldn't we?  But come on.  At what point do we suggest that people toughen up a bit. 

I remember once when I was little coming home from school crying.  A classmate had called me a name.  It was meant to hurt me and it did.  My mom's response?  Get over it.  Most of what offends us today is not intentional.  Referring to a male workmate as "he" is correct grammar - not an intentional affront to gender identity. 

If someone called me Craig - as my grandfather did much of his life, confusing me with my cousin - I wouldn't assume that one was deliberately trying to offend me.  "My name is Greg," would probably be the most mature response to correct the error.    

I find it ironic that this push for removal of icons, names, and legacy of the founding fathers of this country occurs at exactly the same time that seemingly none of us can have a civil discussion or disagreement.  The intensity of the hateful language between partisans is stunning.  We can't simply disagree on policy or engage in respectful political debate.  It seems to me that differing sides are instead driven to destroy the character of the opposition.

I would expect as much from a politician.  In the political arena there are many competing agendas and the rules of engagement have always been cut-throat.  But what is wrong with the rest of us?  It is nearly impossible to listen to about any discussion on any form of media where one side doesn't simply make its case without personalizing their opponents.

Even the language we use is pre-loaded to set up the opposition as an anathema.  "Women's health rights" is the current language for abortion rights.  The label itself assumes that if you are against abortion you are against "women's health."  Just the fact that I mentioned this phrase has undoubtedly gotten some blood pressure up.  If so, you have just demonstrated my point.

Our politicians are called everything in the book.  Hitler, stupid, hateful, and any -ism you can think of.  Many have been called things to filthy to print.  If our children behaved the way we do, we'd probably wash their mouths out with soap. 

Maybe it is time we grew up.  I refuse to listen to any broadcast that launches into such tirades.  Objectivity is out the window so there is no point in listening.  And while I'm happy to discuss my opinion on issues with those who want to chat, it ends with the first personalized comment about any person on the opposite side.

My daughter asked me my thoughts about the Charlottesville KKK march many months ago.  I suggested two things - first, it is a Constitutional right to speak, but that doesn't mean we have to listen.  Second, the best response to such bigotry is to ignore them.  If we started doing that with media outlets that traffic in this sort of drivel, they would go out of business. 

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