I despise the word “offended.” It is not a word I use to describe myself except in the ironic sense – i.e. That completely offends my sensibilities. <wink wink nudge nudge> – because I abhor its underlying implication.
It is designed to shut down dialog, to shut down communication, and that is never good. Never.
Today’s political climate is consumed with shutting down dialog. We are inundated on a nearly daily basis with stories of some segment of the population that has been offended by the actions or views by some other segment of the population. At the core, these claims are designed to terminate the actions or speech of the “offending” group. It is almost always bogus indignation, and even if it is legitimate, what difference does it make? The last I checked, the Constitution was still the law of our land, and every individual has the right to hold views and make statements that may offend others.
Get used to it.
I had a conversation with a friend about this very issue recently, in a much more personal context. It doesn’t change one iota of what I have said. The intention is exactly the same…you have offended me with your <insert issue here>, and I want you to stop doing it. There is no opening for dialog or discussion. There is no opening for a mutually respectful conversation. There is only an opening for listening to the reasons why you offended, and the reason why you should stop saying or doing that which offended.
It can be (and often is) enough simply that you offended. Why is immaterial, you offended and you must stop offending. Even if the relationship is over and there is no avenue for reconciliation, the burden of responsibility is still on the offender to fix him/herself.
This is stupid, and useless, because it accomplishes nothing.
I want to accomplish something in my life, and I don’t want to…I will not…do it by silencing opposing views. Say what you will, it does not offend me.
Shock me? Maybe.
Annoy me? Possibly.
Anger me? Probably more than once.
Embitter me? On occasion.
Offend me? Never.
Eventually I will develop a thick enough skin that even the most infuriating things will roll off. Eventually I will overcome the bitterness and cynicism that roots in. What I will not do is be victimized by someone else’s words. And I will not attempt to silence them. I may despise what you say, but I will defend your right to say it. That’s the bottom line.
There is a lesson that can be gleaned from Voltaire in this regard:
The men who had hated [the book], and had not particularly loved Helvétius, flocked round him now. Voltaire forgave him all injuries, intentional or unintentional. ‘What a fuss about an omelette!’ he had exclaimed when he heard of the burning. How abominably unjust to persecute a man for such an airy trifle as that! ‘I disapprove of what you say, but I will defend to the death your right to say it,’ was his attitude now. —S. G. Tallentyre, referring to Voltaire. Often attributed to Voltaire.
Voltaire really had it right. We should do no less.