There is much in this world with which someone could take offense, such as sexual assault and abuse, war crimes, political officials abusing trust, and many other horrible things. But what do we do? We have hissy fits over kneeling for the national anthem. That's hardly world-shattering as either a protest (which is how it's intended) or insult.
Still, that's far from the most inane thing someone has been offended by. Here are just a few that have tickled and annoyed me.
• The War on Christmas--If it's not Starbucks' cups not being "Christmasy" enough (or slashing polar bear throats on their cookies--those aren't scarves, dadgummit!), then it's someone not saying "Merry Christmas." Just as we Americans have the tendency to forget that there are other nations and cultures in the world, it seems we also can't get it through our thick skulls that not everyone is Christian, and not everyone celebrates Christmas. And most importantly, there is no War on Christmas except in the minds of overheated pundits and their followers. Christmas is not being outlawed in this country, so just calm down ... at least calmer than I am seeing that stores already have gone full yuletide and it's not even Halloween yet. If there's a war, Christmas is winning. The Puritans who started this country, and who banned Christmas celebrations, would be beside themselves.
When I was growing up, I was taught that you should never assume what belief system someone holds. To be polite--not politically correct--one might say "happy holidays" or "season's greetings" to a stranger unless that person's beliefs are apparent, while using the appropriate greeting ("Merry Christmas" or "Happy Chanukah," for example) for someone you know. Or you could just be oblivious that others may not believe what you believe.
Then again, some people seem to revel in taking and giving offense. They're getting coal for Christmas (gotta give some busy work to coal miners displaced by progress, doncha know).
• Nontraditional families in advertising--Cheerios and other brands have taken a lot of flak for ads featuring nontraditional households, like interracial families, unmarried cohabitants or same-sex couples. However, those ads reflect our reality. According to Pew Research, in 2014, only 46 percent of American children were from traditional families, meaning two married heterosexual parents. That's fewer than half; in 1980 it was 61 percent, and 73 percent in 1960. Very few people nowadays don't have someone in their families who doesn't fit the traditional mold in their home life. As long as they're happy and not hurting anyone, is it really any of our business?
Silly question, I know. What other people do that has no effect on us is most certainly our business, dang it! We might have to see them, and that's just icky. Don't these people know that they're violating our right to not be offended? Oh, that doesn't exist? Never mind.
• Being exposed to other perspectives--Sure, staying in the comfort of an echo chamber can be soothing, but in the real world, people have a lot of different opinions (oooh, and it's not just stark left-right, Christian-non-Christian division!). That means that unless you live in an underground bunker or some cloistered society cut off from the outside world, you will have to deal with people who might not have the same perspective on matters of import (or even those of little import--I prefer putting the toilet paper roll on the spindle so you reach under for it, while others prefer over so their critters can more easily destroy the roll ... barbarians ... the people, not the critters).
What mature, thoughtful people do when confronted with other opinions is listen politely and calmly give their perspective. What they don't do is yell, throw punches and call the other people every name in the book because they don't agree. Wait ... did I just describe a family reunion?
It doesn't take much to wind some people up these days, especially with a certain somebody in the Oval Office. But it's not just politics that can cause extreme reactions; religion, especially where it intersects with politics (which it seems it does a lot now), can spur even the most rational to spittle-spraying rages.
Religion and politics are probably the most debated topics, so why, as suggested by some letter-writers and a subscriber at a recent newspaper forum, would we keep religion off the Voices page? Well, we wouldn't.
While there are some limitations (no full-citation Bible verses, keep it clean and civil, no libel or threats, etc.), topics for this page are pretty wide open. If we started forbidding religion letters, we wouldn't be fair to those people who primarily write about religious topics, and we might then start refusing letters about the Razorbacks ... I mean, it is almost like a religion for some. Pretty soon there'd be nothing on the page.
The religious and irreligious have just as much right to be printed as anyone else, and when so many letters we get are about religion, there's really no question that at least some of them will make it onto the Voices page.
I know, not the answer some were praying for, but ...
Assistant Editor Brenda Looper is editor of the Voices page. Read her blog at blooper0223.wordpress.com. Email her at email@example.com.
Editorial on 10/18/2017
Print Headline: No offense