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MIKE MASTERSON: Too-thin skin

by Mike Masterson | February 5, 2019 at 4:30 a.m.

So when did it become acceptable in a culture that prides itself on free speech and expression to become "offended" by cultural, ideological or religious beliefs other than their own?

I surely can't recall a time when so many are quick to act offended. Taking offense clearly has become a part of life in these United States, amplified by an elitist and partisan national media.

While our culture pushes to embrace diversity, many among us are more intolerant than ever of diversity in our ideologies. Makes no sense, does it?

Blogger Matt Walsh says it best: "I truly believe that we are the most [whiny], sensitive, thin-skinned, easily offended society in the history of the world. ... Nobody cries over insignificant nonsense as loudly and consistently as us."

The spread of such bleating only diminishes our heritage of a supposedly indivisible nation under God. The cultural tsunami of offending achieves the opposite effect. All this taking offense would most certainly bring a broad smile to the face of someone the ilk of that late Chicago "community organizer" Saul Alinsky.

At different points across a lifetime, we each will become offended by one thing or another. That's part of living together in a free and open republic with a precious First Amendment to ensure free speech and expression as a centerpiece of basic individual constitutional rights. That is simply bound to trigger periodic offense as a normal reaction.

In years past, we pretty much moved past our momentary disagreements. But in 2019 the country teems with widely publicized "offenses." Those who perhaps because of conditioning, mental/emotional disorders or political addictions seem especially prone to overreaction. We are even tearing down monuments to our history simply to appease groups of the offended.

And who manufactured the latest excuses for the snivel-prone to include perceived offenses such as "micro-aggressions" or "toxic masculinity?" Meanwhile, the micro and toxically offended continue heaving logs onto the bonfire of national division. By the way, whatever happened to simply living and letting live?

This scourge to society actually made it onto facing pages of the Sunday funnies the other day.

The Wizard of Id in its first panel showed the king telling his court jester: "Pretty tough crowd out there today."

The jester: "The show must go on, sire."

The jester goes out on a castle balcony, looks over the crowd and coughs. Then he says, "Thanks so much, folks. You've been great!"

He returns and tells the king: "It's the only way I can avoid offending anyone."

On the facing page in Pearls Before Swine, Goat asks Rat, "Who's the guy next to you?"

Response: "Permanently Offended Guy."

Permanently Offended then says: "You said what? I'm offended," continuing as Rat carries him out: "Never use that word. I'm offended! Never make that joke. I'm offended! Never have that thought. I'm offended!"

The two end up in a forest, and Permanently Offended Guy asks Rat, "Excuse me, but why have you taken me here?"

Rat: "To answer the question, if a guy complains in the forest and no one is around to hear it, does anyone care?"

Permanently Offended stands silent and alone in the woods a moment then shouts to the trees, "I'm offended!"

Whereupon a tree responds, "Please shut your face!"

Most rational adult Americans have enjoyed all the "offended" folks they can abide. We know this problem of whiny adults is epidemic when two nationally syndicated cartoonists probably offended thousands on the same Sunday.

Not original plan

Attorney Joey McCutchen and Robbie Wilson, both of Fort Smith, last week spelled out their opposition to the proposed 1 percent Marshals Museum tax.

McCutchen, an attorney I admire for his fearless advocacy in the public interest and founder of the Transparency In Government Group of Western Arkansas, opposes the tax to help finish the worthwhile project because taxation isn't how it was initially presented to the public.

Instead, the proposed museum was sold as a purely private-funded enterprise. "Seeking a tax now to fund this museum is a betrayal of the trust of Fort Smith citizens," he correctly assessed.

McCutchen's intent, he says, is to educate voters and shed sunlight on this project, "which could quickly become a white elephant just like the River Valley Sports Complex and Fort Smith Convention Center."

Wilson, a lead organizer of Citizens Against Unfair Taxation, said Arkansas ranks as the most regressive tax system in America, citing a recent study by the Institute on Taxation and Economic Policy. He added that Fort Smith residents are struggling with high utility bills, a low median income and have subsidized the Marshals Museum project for years. "Yet these developers are asking for more."

I believe if the wheeler-dealers behind the museum idea can't convince voters to shoulder the penny tax and raise $15.5 million, they have three alternatives: Continue raising private funding, take out a loan, or downgrade to a realistic budget.

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Mike Masterson is a longtime Arkansas journalist. Email him at mmasterson@arkansasonline.com.

Editorial on 02/05/2019

Print Headline: Too-thin skin

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