Wednesday, June 14, 2006
You are offended? Happens!
Before I get started, I want to explain the title.

"Happens" is something we used to say in my family when somebody was griping about something, playing up their victimization about something that was completely stupid. Think of it as a more polite way of telling someone to "suck it up." The shortened "happens!" is the abbreviated version of "It happens." You should know that I could write for a day and a half about the different tones and inflections that can be used with this one-word response and their varied meanings, from playful to downright nasty.

On with the rant.

I have said it before, but it bears repeating. There is no right that protects anyone against being offended. Only in some mindless utopia would this be possible. As long as humans have brains and use them (?) people will continue to think, speak, analyze, and interpret things on an individual level.

The notion that you can somehow protect against someone being offended is nonsense, but that is what the politically correct crowd would have us believe is the goal of civilization.

Let me illustrate my point. Imagine, if you will, you are sitting on a bus and the person next to you sneezes. Habit may compel you to say "Bless You" or "God Bless You." This, I have found, can get you in a heap of trouble.

Perhaps you are only making an attempt to friendly and polite to your fellow man, particularly since you are aware that you have a tendency to block out the outside world and live in your own head. What do you do, then, when it becomes obvious from the firestorm backlash that you have offended someone by pushing religion on them with your blessing? The sheer audacity of your pushing the divinity at someone! How dare you?

Now, suppose a few days later, after being properly put in your place on the religious overtones of blessing a sneezer, another stranger sneezes in an elevator. You know better and let the sneezer be free of your unwelcome comments. You think you have learned your lesson, but you hear through the grapevine that this sneezer commented to someone you apparently both know that you were rude for not saying "bless you" (what kind of cretin are you?) and seem to think you are soooo much better than everybody else.

Clearly, you are damned if you do and damned if you don't. Living in your own thoughts, you tell yourself, at least nobody got pissed at you over this silly crap. What good are other people anyway, you ask yourself? And then you realize you are doing it again, cutting yourself off from life and social interaction. What to do, what to do?

Should we just go forth stepping on egg shells and acting like asses never caring for another human, treating each other as little more than oxygen consumers, or would we be better just knowing that we were well-intentioned and their offense is their problem?

Here's another example:

When my father was in college (he loves to tell this story) he was on his way to class and running a bit late. A young woman was entering the classroom at the same time he was so he politely held the door open for her.

She jumped down his throat for treating her as a lesser being, once again putting the little woman in her place and showing his superiority. She railed at him vehemently, pulling out all the stops on her National Organization of Women, burn the bras talking points. My father is a big ol' softie and never means to give offense. Rather, his holding the door for her was a measure of respect and grace. This lady, and I use the term extremely loosely, pushed his buttons though, and he reacted to her outrage with a few comments of his own. Something about letting the door shut in front of her next time, I believe.

She made quite an impression, as you might guess, seeing as how it happened over 30 years ago and I've heard the story about 18 times.

Was he in the wrong? Was he stroking his male ego at the expense of a woman, effectively enslaving her to the dominion of man? I don't think so, and I'm a woman. Was I in the wrong for offering a "bless you" to a sneezer? Again, I don't think so.

Civilization has really jumped the rails when common courtesies such as these are taking offensively. Gestures meant to be polite recognitions of another person should not be construed to mock, enslave, or push an agenda. I suggest that the sorts of people who would overreact to such niceties have no manners themselves and are likely to live miserable lives, seeking their own victimization at the hands of every person they encounter.

Me? I'd rather live in a society where strangers say Good Morning and Hello to each other, where children are taught to respect their elders and say please and thank you. I want adults, as well, to mind these social niceties, do be polite and respectful in their discourse with each other. I think we'd all be happier if we were a bit nicer to each other.

Snapping at someone for saying "Bless You", whether they put God in front of it or not, is ridiculous, childish, and makes you look like an ass. I'm sorry, but it is so.

If we constantly go around trying not to offend anyone, we will offend everyone. You won't be able to speak for fear of leaving someone out and causing offense or telling a story that offends someone or even using a word the etymology of which offends.

It is senseless. And I'm sick of it.

If you are offended, I suggest you internalize it for a few months before berating someone for trying to be polite. Or, you can accept my invitation to get over yourself.
posted by Phoenix | 10:43 AM


At 1:13 PM, Anonymous Christina said...

"Salud" ~ "To your health" is the expression I use on occasion.

If they appear of that pinko liberal persuasion and they sneeze, then I merely jump back and shout:

"EEEEWWW! How totally disgusting, you got it EVERYWHERE!"

But, that's me.

; )

At 3:00 PM, Blogger bobgirrl said...

You could always go with the Seinfeld approach, "You're soooooooo good lookin'."


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