How about if they have a bunch of Green Peace stickers on their VW?
What if your boss is an outspoken evangelical Christian, or if your uncle believes the Earth is heating-up faster than a microwavable Pizza Pocket®? If your local high school’s nickname was the “Indians”, the “Braves”, the “Chiefs” or (gasp) the “Redskins”, …would that offend you?
If you find any of these examples to be offensive, have no fear: we each have the Constitutional RIGHT to be offended.
What we don’t have is a Constitutional right to force those people to shut-up or cease their behavior simply BECAUSE we’re offended.
But the rise of Political Correctness, coupled with various lawsuits and speech codes, has effectively created a veritable Word Police in our society. And everything said or done is apparently fair game for them to find a potential “offense”.
This entire line of discussion was brought back to my attention by the recent brouhaha concerning comments by former NBA star and analyst Charles Barkley:
Commenting on Los Angeles Clippers’ Matt Barnes using the “N” word on Twitter and the Miami Dolphins bullying investigation on TNT’s “Inside the NBA,” Barkley stated he will continue to use the racial slur around his friends and that white people should not dictate how he talks.
“I’m a black man. I use the ‘N’ word,” Barkley said. “I’m going to continue to use the ‘N’ word with my black friends, with my white friends. They are my friends.”
“This debate goes back to the Paula Deen thing, where they’re like, ‘Black people use it amongst themselves, it’s in rap records,’” Barkley said. “Listen, what I do with my black friends is not up to white America to dictate to me what’s appropriate and inappropriate.”
“As I tell my white friends who I love like brothers … they’ve asked me, When is it appropriate? I say well when you use it around the wrong brother the next thing you’re going to hear is the clock side to your damn head. That’s when it’s inappropriate.”
Barkley’s comments are somewhat of a mixed bag. That last paragraph seems to insinuate he’s in favor of enforcing de facto “speech codes” specifically for white people, yet his initial statement plainly indicates he insists on retaining the right to use whatever rhetoric HE wants.
Overall, his statement is garbled, contradictory, highly confusing, …and is exactly my point: NO ONE seems to have the foggiest notion as to what’s allowable to say anymore.
It’s not as if there’s some all-encompassing published list of words anywhere, so paranoia has rendered vast swaths of topics unsafe or off-limits, stunting our ability to communicate.
Tragic? Yes, certainly. But self-censorship is also completely reasonable for anyone wishing to avoid being labeled by the Word Police as sexist, intolerant, racist, homophobic, Islamophobic, bigoted, or xenophobic (or we can simply use Dennis Prager’s all-purpose ‘SIXHIRB‘ term).
The irony is that even when folks are TRYING to obey these nebulous unwritten rules, they can still manage to offend the very people to whom they were trying to be seen as “sensitive”.
Case in point: Hallmark Cards. Not long ago, the manufacturer ran afoul of the homosexual community when they changed the words of the carol “Deck the Halls” from “Don we now our gay apparel” to “Don we now our FUN apparel” on an ornament. And although Hallmark insisted they made the change in order to avoid confusion, the Word Police would have none of it.
Predictably, the ornament was changed back, with apologies from Hallmark.
Super. Eventually, all ornaments will probably look like this:
What about this example with sports announcer Brent Musberger, from almost a year ago:
If the Word Police are to be believed, now simply remarking about a woman’s beauty (and not in a lascivious or creepy way, either) is now grounds for censure.
Good grief, everyone! Is it any wonder we’re paranoid about what to say? Now complimenting someone is over-the-line? This should make the dating scene pretty interesting, going forward:
NORMAL GIRL: “So, how do I look?“
POLITICALLY CORRECT GUY: “Ummmm, …is that a trick question….??“
Next we have Colorado College, where a job application at the school listed “queer” as one of the gender choices…, and was promptly sued. Was the college trying to offend anyone? Quite the opposite: the offending word was just one of the five (five??) gender options, which also included “not disclosed,” “male,” “female,” or “transgender”. Colorado College was trying to play by the ever-changing rules of gender identification, and was dragged into court for their trouble.
Way to go, guys!!
***On a somewhat related note, I can’t wait until public bathrooms inevitably embrace this new-found enlightenment, at which point I’ll just hold it until I get home, thank-you-very-much. Life is too short for me to waste any portion of it trying to divine which of the 137 various gender options applies to me that particular day.
How did this happen? When did the schoolyard saying about sticks-n-stones cease being operative? In a free society, when did the responsibility for dealing with a perceived “offense” land on the offend-er, rather than where it belongs: the offend-ee?
I’m reminded once again of Kathy Shaidle’s call for us to all undergo ‘Insensitivity’ Training:
“…The only sort of free speech that matters is the sort that offends some people somewhere… I think that in any well-functioning democracy it is incumbent on all citizens to grow a thick skin…”
Until we all learn to do just that, the Word Police will continue on their current path, limiting and controlling more and more of what is “acceptable” in polite society to discuss.
And if that thought offends you, I’m grateful.