2016 is the “I’m offended” year. Recently Clint Eastwood called us a “generation of p*ssies”. I think this is in part due to a deterioration of kids movies.
I went on a double date years ago with a good friend to a Mexican restaurant and my date (who isn’t nearly the looker my wife is (unless she’s had some major work done (can you do parenthesis within parenthesis? (this is like the grammatical version of inception, isn’t it?))) anyway, my date was shocked and offended when I referred to the people as Mexicans despite the fact that the marquee out front clearly said they were. I wasn’t even talking about the waitress or cooks who may have been Chinese for all I know. I think the statement was more of the “Mexicans make awesome food” variety. I made fun of her and she turned down a second date (I made it a habit to always try twice, and I still hold to this rule in food and new experiences, since Annie is now my permanent go-to as far as dates).
I am inclined to agree that people are generally too quick to take offense (and the thing about generalizations is that they are generally true). I do wonder if we take more offense now-a-days or if folks look on the past in this regard with rose colored glasses. You know, the back in the good-old-days syndrome.
Right now you may be wondering what this has to do with scary kid movies. Hold with me. We’ll get there. I’ll jump about a bit and then tie everything together in a bow (probably not a pretty bow as those seem beyond me).
Pre-Annie-Mitch was a lot more blunt and unconcerned with the feelings of others, having largely learned to ignore the fact that he had any feelings himself. I refer to that guy in the third person because he seems like a different person to me now. Some aspects I miss. That dude had more confidence and I need that, but all in all the change is good (case in point: see my edited Eastwood quote above as evidence of my consideration of my more tender readers despite the fact that it should be as criminal to edit an Eastwood quote as it is to write a run-on sentence of this length).
Although not a particularly Christ-like attitude, as a Mormon missionary I used to assert that those who are easily offended deserve to feel like crap. I still think this is a true statement. I had a heated argument with another missionary on one memorable occasion (very likely after I’d offended him) and then was validated by a talk given by Elder Bednar at General Conference. Read Bednar Talk
Despite a firm belief in the above statement, these days I try to consider the feelings of others as I insert my foot into my mouth. That said, my closest friends tend to be those who aren’t so needy that I have to check myself around them.
Back in the day there was one Young Men’s lesson that still resonates (or at any rate I don’t mock it like I do the one about the boiling frog). The teacher came prepared with a back-pack and a pile of soup cans (I don’t remember the exact details here so there is a little invention bolstering this recollection). Anyway, each can had a new label taped over the familiar red and white Campbell one with some grievous offense scrawled on it (in memory these new labels were done to mimic the style and colors of the original cans but I doubt this was the case since this was Young Men’s and not Relief Society).
So I put on the bag as instructed and the teacher picks up a can. He reads the offense: “You are cut off on the freeway.” He sticks the can in the bag.
Not too heavy yet.
Then he sticks in another can, and another. Pretty soon he reads off the last can, which must have been family sized, and puts it in with the rest. When I take off the bag it is with relief.
“Can anyone tell me why I put the weight in Mitch’s bag, and not in the bags of those who actually did all these terrible things?”
No one ventures a guess. After all, it would be more fair (Fairer? Much more fairer? Grammar folks feel free to correct in the comments. I promise not to be offended). Anyway, it would be very much more fairer to stick the cans in the guilty dude’s pack (sorry to those of a feministic persuasion for defaulting with a male description of the offenders, although in this particular case the gender bias seems to work in your favor, right? Leave a comment if you’re offended and I’ll shoot you a heart-felt apology). Anyway again—we remained silent.
“Here’s the deal, guys,” he answered his own question, “when we get offended than we are the ones that feel the weight of it. I was driving down the road once, on a date with my wife, and some guy cut me off. I swore at him and got so upset that I snapped at my wife when she suggested I was over-reacting. It ruined my whole night, and my wife’s, even though I was in the right! That guy cut ME off! And here’s the crazy thing: I’ll bet that guy was just jamming out to ABBA and never noticed what he’d done. He drove off singing Dancing Queen and having a grand old time and MY night was ruined. We’re the only ones who carry the weight of upset when we choose to take offense.”
So yeah, I learned that in addition to life being unfair, the cosmic universe of emotion is also unfair. Except that we can have mastery over ourselves. That was the point of the lesson, that we can choose to be offended. We can learn to shrug things off. This isn’t a criticism of those who have a harder time with this than I do. We all have our own struggles. For me, an understanding of this concept has made it much easier for me to move past potentially offensive things.
You hear these new-wave feel-gooders refuting age-old sayings now-a-days (you can trust that this is true because any sentence with so many hyphens has to be true). My first head-shaking recognition of this happened at a church meeting. Some self-important guy who liked the sound of his own voice too much stood up and said, “They say what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger,” at this point he meets each of our eyes with assured self-importance, “but I think my newly-crippled brother-in-law’s nephew would disagree.” So yeah, they ignore the intent of a saying in order to push their self-important ramblings that very often lack a point. Anyway, another saying you hear put down is the age-old sing-song: sticks and stones can break my bones but words will never hurt me. That one guy (or gal) we all know who whole-heartedly jumps on every Facebook band-wagon faddish political cause has probably updated their status with variations of: Words can hurt as surely as sticks or stones! So much passion, they must be right. Well, they may have the passion but they’re missing the hyphens necessary for a true statement. They are missing the point. They don’t believe in personal accountability and they teach their children that they aren’t responsible for themselves, and so they don’t understand that this age old sing-song is a statement of accountability, a determination not to let hurtful words affect them, not to be offended.
I wonder if you can guess my thoughts on bullying? I should say, my thoughts on the Facebook band-wagon faddish political cause of bullying? Punish the bully’s sure, but for heaven’s sake (and the country’s sake) teach your kids how to blow off those big-mouthed uni-browed bullies like any child who is half as intelligent as you think your kid is. Getting rid of bullying is as much a pipe-dream as world peace is, because there will always be uni-browed jerks out there.
Here is a thought on the flip side of all of this, just to prove I’ve thought this out: What of the idea that we aren’t more offended these days, but that people are more offensive? Look at all the twitter trolls out there, and the Facebook political arguments, after all. Look at the divisive political landscape. Isn’t it worse now than ever before? Look at our candidates this year. When have we had such dirt-bags on the ballot? Maybe (and feel free to read this in a self-righteous tone of inner-narration) we need to be more offended so that the bullying will stop! Yeah, perhaps some people let their ugly out on the internet (where again, they don’t need to take responsibility for their actions), but people have always been offensive. Pretty sure in some of the country’s first debates Jefferson called Adams a hermaphrodite and Adams retorted by calling Jefferson a mixed breed son of an Indian or something to that effect.
I think we are quick to point to those who think differently than ourselves and say that they are too easily offended. It is easy for generation X to point at the millennials with that accusation, but I remember a bit of a local uproar about a UDOT traffic sign that said something slightly racy (I want to say it was a pun that had to do with the word ass). Anyway, dear old calloused generation X had a cow because a traffic sign had graduated from G content to PG. Maybe we all need to take a deep breath and pull the soup cans from our psychological back-packs.
Yes, the millennials are generally the tender little infants who can’t eat anything less bland than mashed sweet-potato conversations, but I wonder who raised them? Who neglected to teach them about sticks and stones? Who let them watch Captain Planet and Care Bears instead of Willy Wonka? Maybe we should be more concerned with teaching kids about action and reaction, decision and consequence, than with teaching them about how they’re all special and to be nice to everyone.
So yeah, personal accountability is a lost art. When my boss asks me about a mistake I look him in the eye and say, “Yeah, I messed up. These are the reasons I screwed up and this is how I plan to avoid the mistake in the future.” When someone says something I could be offended by I try to understand why they are being idiotic. Most of the time it isn’t intentional and when it is I usually find I don’t care what that particular person thinks.
So kids movies. Just a clear area where we can track how we have stopped teaching kids that there are consequences to their actions. If you chew the gum when Mr. Wonka warns you not to you’ll turn Violet, Violet. When you build your house out of sticks the wolf feasts on your idiot carcass. You don’t scamper off to your smarter pig brother’s brick house to avoid consequence, no, your entrails are scattered across the crimson soaked straw remains of your pitiful hut like gory party streamers as the huffer and puffer gobbles your ass down. Screw the Care Bears. Get Grimm down from the shelf and scare the hell out of your kids.
If you’re wondering how I wrote this post without going all political I don’t mind telling you I did delete a bloated paragraph about the recent election and it may surprise you to learn I have an opinion about it.
Post post script:
If I’ve offended you comment below and I’ll write you an apology (I am a fiction writer after all!).
Post Post Post Script:
I wonder what the official word count is that qualifies an essay as a rant?