On the beauty of being offensive…

If the media can be believed, we live in a country that could currently be best described as offended that we’re offended by the offensive offending that may or may not offend you, me, or the neighbor and if any one of those people are not offended, we’re unilaterally offended by their lack of offense.

It’s enough to make a poor blogger’s head hurt. It’s probably only a matter of time before the Court is asked to find that we Americans have a heretofore undiscovered and absolute right to not face any issue at any time that may hurt our chickenshit little feelings. That way we can prevent anyone from saying anything.

I can only hope that it doesn’t come to that.

I want to be offended by people. I want them to express ideas that are different than my own. I want them to challenge me – because that means I have to better understand my own positions and arguments. It means I have to work just that little bit harder to know my own mind. It means I don’t get a free pass when my poor little feelings aren’t validated.

While we’re at it, could we maybe “feel” a little less and “think” a little more – as in “I think this is important and here’s why” instead of “I feel that we should eat granola instead of eggs because chickens are people too.” All I’m asking for is a little intellectual rigor instead of running the country like some kind of damned new age encounter group.

As for me, I’ll continue to speak my mind. If anything I say offends you, good. That means I’m doing my part.

A case of the feels…

We’ve been wandering down the path of politically correct, overly sensitive molly coddling for most of my adult life. I was lucky I guess to catch the tail end of the last generation that was allowed to compete, win, lose, and sometimes feel badly about ourselves. Now we all get trophies just for showing up. We’re told that good enough is ok. And for God’s holy sake we must walk on every eggshell in order to avoid saying or doing something that someone, somewhere may find in any way offensive or objectionable.

So here’s my open invitation: If you ever find yourself in a conversation with me, just spit out whatever is on your mind. Don’t feel any need to mince your words or to use euphemisms to “soften the blow.” Be honest and forthright in your meaning – you know, the way our parents taught us. You’re not going to hurt my feelings because we’re grown adults and anywhere within my (admittedly limited) span of control you’re allowed – even encouraged – to have an opinion different than mine. On some level I might even find some of those opinions offensive. That’s ok too. Having your ideas challenged builds character. And believe it or not, having character and the courage of your convictions use to be considered a good thing.

Not now, though. What we want now is a world where we all think the same things, feel the same way, don’t rock the boat too hard, or heaven forbid, have an original idea that doesn’t march in lock step with whatever passes for the mainstream. Don’t offend anyone. Don’t hurt their feelings. Don’t dare express an opinion that isn’t approved, packaged, and sanitized for your goddamned protection.

There was a time we did great things in this country. It was a time when we were dared to dream heroic dreams… but it was also a time when we didn’t worry quite so much about bumps, bruises, and skinned knees – and when having a bad case of the feels wasn’t considered a mortal wound.

What Annoys Jeff this Week?

1. Sticks and stones. I might be part of the last generation that grew up learning that sticks and stones would break our bones, but names would never hurt us. We’re also perhaps the last generation that will get to use the work “thug” to refer to a violent criminal. It’s not a surprise. When we live in a world where everyone wants to get through life without their sensibilities or little feelings being hurt, there’s not much hope. Personally, I refuse to be afraid of or intimidated by mere words… not even the one’s Carlin couldn’t say on television. I can’t help but think we’d all be better off if we’d collectively grow a thicker skin and spend a little last time being “offended” by every little thing that doesn’t fit in nicely with our own worldview.

2. Reorganization. I’ve been with my employer now for a little more than 12 years. In that time I’ve lived through six major reorganizations. Those are just the ones that impacted me directly. I’ve probably seen at least twice or three times that number happen. Of course there’s nothing wrong with changing things up to make yourself more efficient and effective. That’s good business. It’s just that when you do it on average every other year there’s no way in hell you’re making those decisions based on consistently assembled data… and when the next guy finds something he doesn’t like, we’ll just go ahead and shuffle the chairs again and see how everything shakes out. I’d never claim to have the right answers, but I do know that throwing darts and hoping for the best is rarely a management best practice.

3. Accusations. If your default answer to a different viewpoint on why things got batshit crazy in Baltimore is “you’re a racist,” it may be time to realize that other viewpoints may be legitimate – even if you don’t happen to personally agree with it. If that’s the only argument you can bring to the table, we’re well past the point of having a reasonable discussion. When that’s your answer to an honest, probing question, it’s safe to consider our conversation at an end. You don’t have anything to tell me that I need to hear.

Not a fan…

It was hard to miss the “breaking news” today that the US Patent Office vacated multiple trademarks owned by the historic Washington football franchise. I’m not a fan of the Washington Redskins. In fact I can’t remember the last time I watched a football game from Washington-Redskins-Logostart to finish. It was probably sometime in the 90s. Fortunately, this post is only tangentially related to football because it provides the backdrop for the point I really want to make tonight.

There are a lot of appeals between now and anything that might resemble a name change for the team, but if I were Dan Snyder, I’m pretty sure my plan of attack might go something like this: 1) Halt the sale of all items bearing the Redskins team logo; 2) Discontinue all team related activities – shuttering their training facility, FedEx Field, and offices; 3) Inform the NFL of my intention to sit out the 2014 season rather than being forced by the mob to do business as “Generic Washington, DC Football Franchise.” But then again, I’m the kind of guy who will cheerfully slice off my nose to spite my face.

Look, if you’re offended by the use of the name Redskins, then by all means avail yourself of the opportunity to not purchase a ticket. Show up at the stadium on game day with your protest sign. Send a letter. Do whatever it is you feel you need to do to make your voice heard… but in my final analysis, I get a cold chill every time some random agency of government is allowed to tell us what words are offensive, unacceptable, or otherwise “not nice.” I don’t want government within a country mile of making decisions about what words any one of us can or can’t use, from team owners to town drunks. Words are just words. They’re not imbued with any magical meaning or significance until we chose to give them that meaning.

I have a hunch that if Redskins was really an “offensive” term, we wouldn’t need government to save us from it. It would be reflected by the thousands of empty seats at every home game when when fans were too mortified to show up. I’m not sure when we came up with this idea that we should be able to get through life without ever being offended or having our little feelings hurt, but for my money it’s done us more harm than good.

For the first (and probably last) time in my life, I say this without a hint of sarcasm: Hail to the Redskins!

Offensive…

I’ve been reading with something that passes for interest about the furor sparked by Adidas’ plan to sell a shoe with a built in shackle. I’m not about to sully my pristine pages here by wading into the ridiculous race debate we seem to treat as a national sport, but I couldn’t let the moment pass without throwing in a couple of cents on what I see as the bigger issue this highlights.

I almost feel bad bringing this up, but none of us, not you, not me, not your great aunt Fannie, are guaranteed to walk through life not being offended. It’s a big, cold world out there and eventually someone is going to say or do something that’s going to hurt your tender feelings or cause you to see something that you find vile, contemptuous, or downright smutty. To that, all I can say is the biggest possible “so what?”

If a company offends your sensibilities, hey feel free to stop handing them your hard earned money. If a friend, neighbor, or some random person on the street says something off color, feel free to ignore them… or better yet, say something equally offensive back at them. I hear Facebook is a particularly effective platform for bitching and moaning about what’s gone wrong with your life. Starting your own blog, of course, elevates you to the level of an almost professional crank.

Trust me, I’m the last person on earth who wants to take away anyone’s inalienable right to gripe and complain. I just wish we could all collectively grow a pair or at least take a shot at building up a little thicker skin. Personally I think we’re collectively making way too big a deal over a shoe that’s, if we’re all honest, just plain ugly as sin anyway.

Teddy Bears and Civilization…

It’s taken me a while to decided if I actually wanted to wade into this discussion or not. In Sudan, a British subject is under indictment for allowing her elementary school-aged students to name a stuffed bear “Mohammed.” I’m not going to argue that it was in good taste, but I don’t know that it rises to the level where a lashing and expulsion from the country is necessarily a proportional response, either. Is it offensive? Yep, sure is. If they had named the bear in question Jesus or Jehova, would it be offensive to other religious groups? Yes. But the difference here is that you’re not likely to see the United Methodist Church or the Southern Baptists call for publicly beating the individual.

You know, I’m sorry that you’re offended by what this lady said or did, but when were any of us promised that we were going to be able to make it through the day without being offended? The world’s a mean place, so I recommend you suck it up, cupcake. Act like you’ve got a pair and stop bitching like the kid who just dropped his ice cream cone. The rest of the world may hate us, but I’m comforted by the fact that there’s a big hunk of them that are at least as ate up as we are.