By DAVID PORTER
Rantoul Press columnist
Like the surgeon general, who makes declarations of public health, I think we need a federal position for deciding what is and is not offensive — a civility general or an ombudsman of outrage.
And I think I should be that person.
People could write in with their complaints, and I could respond with appropriate messages like "Get a life," "Quit yer bellyachin’" or "Get over yourself." People will get offended over anything these days, and then it gets politicized. Sometimes, I think people are more interested in the politics of repugnancy than they are in what was said. It’s not that they’re so offended as much as it is that they want to exert some moral superiority or dispense ridicule.
The same people who call other people snowflakes for being thin-skinned lose their minds over similarly minute situations. It’s on both sides of the political aisle, too.
On the left, some people think it’s OK to sing about killing cops but come unhinged over "Baby, It’s Cold Outside." On the right, some bristle at the idea of any kind of gun control but flip out over someone taking a knee during the National Anthem.
We need an arbiter to step in and say, hey, knock it off.
There are two things that come to my mind regarding offensiveness. 1) Just because something is offensive to you doesn’t mean it’s offensive to everyone, and 2) the right to offend is as valid as the right to be offended. Plus, expressing outrage over some perceived rudeness often gives the objectionable content a broader audience.
Some things truly are offensive and should be curtailed. We have laws in place to deal with hate speech, libel and slander.
Incivility is a weird thing. Take the "n" word for example. The fact that we use "the "n word" to describe the "n word" is a testament to how offensive it is. Yet, we hear blacks use it in songs and in movies. They claim that it’s OK for them to use it and it’s a way of taking ownership of the word and changing its meaning. But that doesn’t mean that it’s not still offensive to those of us who have removed it from our lexicon.
I’m more often offended by people getting offended than I am by the stuff that offended them. Plus, I tend to not react to the stuff that does offends me. As an example, I don’t think it’s professional to wear open-toed shoes in an office setting. But I’m not going to scold someone who does it. I’d be more likely to scoff at the person who did complain.
Now, if we had a business meeting to discuss how we might improve our image and we were listing things off, I might bring it up. Hey, y’all, if we want to look more professional, maybe we shouldn’t bare our ugly toes to our customers. And maybe we should stop saying ‘y’all."
But typically, if it doesn’t cost me money or make me nauseated, I’m probably not going to call somebody out on their manners. Unless doing so would be fun. Having fun is a pretty big priority for me.
So, if you’re with me, don’t worry if you wear your hat to the dinner table, or if you unintentionally pass a little gas or you don’t say goodbye when you hang up the phone. I might be a little offended, but I’ll get over it. And if you notice that I don’t invite you over for dinner anymore, you can try to figure out why.
I don’t try to offend people but I know that I do on occasion. When I don’t respond fast enough to an email or fail to return a phone call or I don’t laugh at their joke or pick up their tab or I’m a bit too acerbic, etc. Everyone is offensive to someone on occasion.
Most of the time, when I’m offended, I recognize it as a "me" problem and not necessarily a "them" problem. Other times, I file the indiscretion away in the back of my head as it informs how I will deal with them in the future. What I don’t do is try to orchestrate a national outrage for political gain — but I reserve the right to do so in the future. Hey, hypocrisy is as common as impertinence.
© Copyright 2018 by David Porter, who can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. If any of this column offended you, well, read it again.