Answer this question truthfully for me: Who's worse these days, people who say or write offensive stuff or the people who get really offended by it?
Once upon a time, I imagine the obvious answer was the offenders, but with the way things are now, I honestly think the offended may have become the bigger problem. A perfect case in point is a recent incident in Rio Rancho, New Mexico, that ultimately resulted in the resignation of a high school creative writing teacher.
The story goes something like this: The teacher gave the class an assignment to rewrite a fairy tale or legend in modern times. One student changed the story of Jesus handing out bread and fish to the poor to Jesus handing out medical marijuana to sick people.
On a personal note, I think that's a very creative response to the assignment. I like that. If that student could write five paragraphs and spell halfway decently, I'd probably give that story a good grade.
Anyway, the kids in the class did a peer review of one another's stories, and one girl in the class -- evidently a very religious girl -- got really offended by the Jesus-and-marijuana story and complained to her parents when she got home, as high school girls are wont to do.
Now, that's where the story should have ended. As American parents, those people's response to their child's complaints about someone else's story in a high school creative writing class should have been, "Get over it." It's that other kid's constitutional right to write whatever the hell story he or she wants to tell. Welcome to the United States.
But that's not what happened. Apparently, the parents took their teenage daughter's complaints very seriously and griped about the story to the public school district, which should have stood up for its teachers' and students' First Amendment rights and politely told the offended parents to pipe down.
But that's also not what happened. Instead, the school district placed the teacher on administrative leave while it investigated the matter. I'm not sure what matter there was to investigate or why a teacher who gave a perfectly innocuous assignment needed to be placed on leave, but someone got offended by something that happened at a public school, so somebody had to pay.
The teacher said she felt targeted, harassed and forced to resign, and so she did, having essentially been forced out by a lone student's delicate sensibilities. And that was that -- another pathetic anecdote in a growing canon of them.
A lot of people pussyfoot around this subject, but I'm just going to come right on out and say it. Hey everyone, and I do mean everyone, myself included: Chill the hell out. Seriously. Can we get over ourselves already and quit acting like such a bunch of mewling crybabies?
Life is offensive. That's just the way it is. Accept it and move on. Everyone gets their feelings hurt. Everyone is the target of some unflattering stereotype. Everyone has customs and beliefs that they chafe to see derided. Just because you're a Christian or a Muslim or a feminist or a Republican or a fat person or whatever doesn't make you special. Your hurt feelings are no more demanding of an apology than anyone else's.
Maybe it's because I have no filter and routinely blurt out stupid, offensive, thoughtless things, but I'm tired of watching what I say around other people, and I'm not even around people that much. I can't imagine how annoying it must be for public figures to constantly walk on eggshells for fear of upsetting some thin-skinned wimp with a blog.
I realize that the really vocal whiners are a small minority -- at least outside of the Middle East -- but it really does seem to me as if everyone is allowing themselves to be offended more and more easily nowadays. In fact, I think many of us go about our lives each day looking for things to get offended by. That would explain the popularity of Rush Limbaugh, who is both constantly offended and constantly offensive at the same time.
Sadly, though, as they say, "Let peace begin with me." Therein lies the rub. You see, I get offended as easily as anyone and am probably most in need of chilling out. And if I can't seem to do it, I'm not sure how I could hold anyone else to a higher standard.
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