No offense, but enough already

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October 9, 2013 by nooffensebut

A former colleague of mine once said, quite aptly, “when someone says ‘no offense,’ it means ‘this may offend you.’ ”

Well, no offense, but I feel like we’ve become the society that cries wolf.

From psychological disorders to bullying to misogyny, we’ve become so quick to paint ourselves as victims that we forget to let go of our own problems sometimes. We are far too easily offended.

Don’t misunderstand. There are serious problems. There are legitimate reasons to be offended by the ways in which people are treated in this world. Kids are being tormented. Women are being assaulted. People are being badgered and belittled and harmed on a daily basis.

It just isn’t always the case for everybody.

You may remember how I’ve talked about my hypochondria, how I get worried that every ache, cramp, bump, bruise and freckle could be cancer, but IT’S NOT? Same deal.

Every kid who daydreams sometimes does not need to be on Ritalin. Every unwelcome flirtatious comment is not sexual harassment. Every schoolyard teasing session does not equal torture.

“Kids aren’t allowed to develop a social immune system,” a male friend observed recently, as we, along with another compatriot, reminisced about our respective childhoods, which yes, did include some general nastiness.

We all turned out OK.

I fear that if every perpetrator of hurt feelings or mild annoyance is treated as a criminal, literally and figuratively speaking, the really serious issues will get buried among a plethora of hypersensitivity.

Recently, pictures of actress Ashley Judd looking “puffy” appeared, leading to speculation that the actress had undergone plastic surgery, was putting on significant weight and more.

Judd responded to these rumors, in a rather verbose fashion that ultimately translates to “it’s horrible to judge women by the way we look and say mean things when we look bad.”

Of course it’s not right, but I don’t think it’s necessarily an “assault on womanhood,” particularly when a) there are actual assaults, violations and harassment happening, and b) there are plenty of women out there who are happy to get ahead with their looks but label criticism not just inappropriate or bothersome, but a violation that offends them. And it offends them not as individuals, but “as women,” or as fill-in-the-group-blank, as though our feelings must represent the whole.

The result of us not being able to handle some ephemeral criticism, besides the minor incidents overwhelming the major problems, is this annoying culture of political correctness that’s developed.

I hesitated to write this column, worrying that people would, well, be offended by it. With some encouragement from friends and colleagues — including several choruses of “I’m offended you think we’d be offended” — I decided to go forward.

I was raised with manners, and I consider myself a kind, polite person. I sincerely wish to offend no one, but I hope I’m not alone in my belief that there is more than a fine line between criticism and assault, teasing and torment, meanness and cruelty, annoyance and offense.

Because “no offense,” but I’m just over people crying wolf.

Originally published April 13, 2012 in the Chattanooga Times Free Press

A reader response:

Holly,
    Thanks for putting into words what I have been thinking for a while.  My seventeen year old daughter and I were discussing the issue of bullying recently, and she said that she thinks it is blown way out of proportion at school and that some perceived bullying should just be ignored.  I quote:  “Everyone needs some teasing and bullying while they are growing up.  They need to learn to deal with it themselves so that they will be ready for the real world out there. You have to develop a thick skin.”  She endured some tough times with “friends” during middle school, and I think it really shaped who she is and the way she handles things now.  We didn’t intervene during these struggles, as she did not want us to do so.  It was tough to not be the Mama Bear and tear into some kids (and their parents), but we respected her wishes and let her handle it.
    I enjoy your column every week.  Thank you again for addressing this issue.
Sincerely,
Anne H

 

Miss Holly!  Even though I am old enough to be your grandfather I look forward to your column as I find it most interesting to learn what folks 2 generations from me are thinking.  Today’s was something that needs saying much more.  We are the nation of the offended and each time someone’s thin skin is irritated someone else want to pass a law making such an offense “hate speech”.  My ancient mind feels that free speech gives me the right to offend others so long as it isn’t slander etc that affects their ability to earn a living.

 Give my sympathy to Joe.  I spent 37 great years with a lady that alternately drove me nuts and then made me feel like the luckiest man around.  It aint always an easy trip but surely worth making.

 Keep putting your feelings out there and don’t be afraid to sometimes “offend” someone.  Just try not to offend everyone at once.

 One more added thought.  When I went to school we had names like “big nose” “Tub” etc.  Mine was Crisco.  You can figure out why.  It wasn’t nice but we survived the better for it as we learned that who you are is a lot more important than what someone else thinks of you or what they call you.

 Harry M

 

Holly,
  Most of all I want to compliment you on your writing style. I want
to take just a moment to thank you for your wonderfully insightful
article on 4/13/12  “No Offense, But Enough Already”.
  I think of the ridiculous waste of human effort devote to political
correctness each day and I can not agree with your article more.
  I often think to myself as I watch CNN, who cares and why does it
matter. Recently Lindsay Lohan was the lead on CNN when 12 soldiers
had lost their lives in combat over the weekend. What are you smoking
Producer? I really feel that way when watching any of the TV morning
entertainment shows that pretend to tell us what is news and what
matters.
  As a Native American I have a slightly different view of the
political correctness forced onto current society. Do you call us
Indians, Native Americans or Cherokee? Damn, just understand we are
still here for goodness sake. Please understand the work that is being
done to preserve our culture, educate our young people and preserve
our language. Understand that we still have treaties which were never
enforced, understand that the trail of tears was ethnic cleansing
which we taxpayers spent 45 billion dollars to defeat in Bosnia.
Understand that Custer had it coming.
  The bigger problem I fear is that Americans will continue to lapse
into apathy as we look at the environment and the unprecedented
exploitation of our Earth’s resources. The campaign for clean coal is
much like promoting fucking for virginity or fighting for peace. Back
away and look at it and it is just stupid. Clean Coal does not exist.
Our elected officials continue to allow the coal industry to rape our
mountains, pollute our streams and destroy the air we breathe as they
admit 45% of Appalachian coal harvested is going overseas.
  Fracking. Just don’t even float the idea that eliminating layers of
lubricants and natural buffers, miles under the earth could possibly
cause earthquakes, shifts under ground. The politicians right wingers
and liberal democrats  don’t want to think about it because it might
take money from their campaign. A campaign to get re-elected not to
serve we the people. It is not political it is criminal.
  If we the people who waste our time worrying about “mild annoyances
being criminal offenses” would get off their couches and figure out
who to vote for and why it matters, we might have a chance to at least
save some of what is left of our planet. It’s not red vs. blue folks
it is right vs. wrong.

Good Work & Warmest Regards,
Barry

 

Dittos on the No offense column.  I loved it plus it was also a reality check for me as I send my first born baby girl to kindergarten. I don’t want anyone making fun of or hurting my baby. 🙂 but I survived and her daddy survived. In fact, we did more than survive, we had adjusted, we learned, etc.  Sometimes we go along and then realize we’ve been caught up in the ways of society, some that aren’t always healthy.  
Thanks again.  Denise  

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