Tuesday, January 20

Offense 101

 "Those who are easily shocked, should be shocked more often." Mae West

As a socially clumsy person with Asperger's, I have discovered there is no defense from thin skinned, politically correct, humorless Eugenians. I worked with a local theatre in one capacity or another for 15 years until recently, when, as volunteer usher a patron was offended by my innocent attempt at humor. No matter how hard I try to be courteous and polite, sometimes I say things that sound tactless without knowing it. Instead of gently addressing me to correct the problem, said person insisted someone else deal with their injured ego because doing so themselves would also make them uncomfortable. 
This turn of events got me thinking about a current, larger problem. We live in an era where people can not tell the difference between unintentional and deliberate offense. Any and every offense --real or imagined-- has the same unpardonable weight, where the offending person must be removed from their position or they must grovel and apologize immediately for hurting someone's feelings. The Korean airline executive who had a fit over the way her snack was served is a classic over reaction based on a sense of entitlement.

When someone hurls angry, abusive language meant to demean you, that's intentional. If you can't tell the difference than you need to grow up. 

Here's an idea, when encountering a slight, make the cosmic leap and assume it was unintentional and not a deliberate attack on your precious ego. No one is special and nobody cares if you are offended. No one cares if you think you can speak for others who may be offended too.This includes children. When someone offers an apology, accept it and move on.Just shake your head and assume they were tired, having a bad day or raised without manners. Whatever. 
I am offended every day when I read the newspaper, go to the library or shop at Bi-Mart for God sake, but I don't write vitriolic letters to the editor, or run to management and demand retribution because-gasp-my sensibilities were hurt. I wouldn't have time for anything else if I did. Life is too  precious to spend it being inconvenienced by imperfection.
I understand that some feel powerless before an overwhelming world and picking on small things is the only fight one has, but it is misdirected. Take all the petty slights you encounter and aim them at the ones doing real damage in our world. But demanding that every politician, celebrity and advertiser watch their every word or they are pounced on by those eager to be offended, doesn't help and only makes everyone small minded and meaner.
Meanwhile, I'm sick of walking through a mine field every time I interact with people for fear of upsetting someone even more insecure than me. I prefer to strive for kindness toward myself and others. " Forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us" and the world will be a nicer place.

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