It is time Americans thicken their skins. One can not open a newspaper or look at the news on-line without seeing at least one article about someone being offended. Has our skin become so thin that we can be offended by almost anything?
Perhaps there are things we do not agree with, but do they necessarily offend us? There have always been disparaging comments and actions ranging from men drinking in front of members of the Woman’s Christian Temperance Union members to various ethnic and racial groups being called by names they consider derogatory.
The Woman’s Christian Temperance Union (WTCU) was formed in the 1870’s with the goal of eliminating drunkenness and other forms of alcohol abuse. They worked hard both at the individual level and the governmental level to fight “the demon alcohol”. Their intentions were pure as they picketed bars and tried to shame men into stopping drinking. At the governmental level they lobbied to have cities and counties declared “dry” by law and advocated the 18th Amendment. While they did not have the success they desired, they did have a major impact on public drunkenness and domestic problems related to alcohol consumption.
Of course those men who liked to drink, were not polite to WTCU members. They tried to disrupt the WTCU lectures on the evils of alcohol and often make a public display of drinking in front of speakers and in front of ladies who picketed the men’s favorite bars. Some men used their physical strength to carry “the little ladies” away from the demonstration. I am sure the women were spitting mad, but they did not publicize how offended they were. What letters they wrote to legislators and newspapers focused on the facts as they saw them.
Every ethnic or racial group has been labeled with one or more derogatory names. There are even derogatory terms for Whites that I have heard applied to me. Everyone has been called an insulting name at one time or another. At times fights have erupted over some of these labels, but only recently have people made a big fuss about being offended. Yes, some have gotten into fights over these names, but the majority of people simply held their peace, until recently.
Discussed above are two situations in which the participants would have been justified to be offended, but few voiced their hurt feelings publicly. Now it had become fashionable to be offended. People are being offended by the silliest things. A recent article told about fans being offended by the Christmas greeting card that Kim Kardashian posted on social media. No, the fans were not offended by the mention of the Christian holiday, they were offended because there was no mention of Kim’s husband.
For generations, Americans have decorated their homes at Christmas. In some families, the historic reference to Jesus has been lost and the decorations are totally secular, but the practice of decorating the outsides of house continues to increase. One family in Pennsylvania were inspired to include a big sign about Jesus in the middle of their display. The homeowner’s association is demanding that the reference to Jesus be removed because a neighbor was offended. I presume they were concerned others would likewise be offended.
If Jesus is the reason for the season, those people who are not religious should tolerate us “Jesus freaks” when we celebrate Jesus’ birthday. If anything, they can laugh at Christians for the delusions Christians have, but how can non-Christians be offended? The world has never been unified in a single belief. In the past, there have been religious wars, but except for them, differences in religious beliefs have in many situations been tolerated. Why start now to be offended? I used to travel on business to Muslim countries. When I was in a Muslim country during Ramada, people would wish me a happy Ramada. Should I have been offended and thrown a fit? My practice was to thank the well-wisher and then ignore the holiday as best I could.
I can not document this, but a visitor to one of our local high schools happened to be in the building when morning announcements were being read over the PA system. It is tradition in that school for the student who is reading the announcements to end with, “God bless you and have a good day.” The visitor stormed into the office and demanded to know how many people were in the building. She was told 1200. She then said, “Well, you have just offended 1200 people.” Personally, I do not think her indignation was justified, but I can understand why she thought she was offended. I do not understand how she figured everyone in the building was offended? A large part of our population appreciates being given God’s blessing. How silly a statement. Perhaps she thought her hyperbole made her point, but it only showed how short-sighted her opinions are.
Jeff Jacoby, a writer for the Boston Globe recently published an editorial expressing thoughts similar to mine. He makes reference to a Jewish prayer in which the prayer is supposed to be asking God help him to forgive anyone who has offended him that no person shall receive punishment for having offended the person praying. He then extend the argument to say that he tries to make a practice of not taking offense when offense is not intended. What an excellent way for a person to toughen up their skin.
Personally, I would take this one step further and not take offense at all. Jesus told us to forgive our enemies. It appears that most of the people today are offended by what is said or done by their enemy.
Indeed our country had great diversity, and the only thing that has held us together has been the fact that we, as a nation, are more tolerant than many other nations. We are not perfect in this, but we are more tolerant than most countries. In fact, the very people who cry the loudest about being offended tend to be the people expecting tolerance in other areas.
We need to toughen up and allow our skins to grow thicker and stronger so that we can tolerate it when someone insults us. If we do this, we will be better prepared to live in harmony with our neighbors and our enemies.