Jewish World Review Nov. 24, 1999 /15 Kislev, 5760
Being offended is a substitute for thinking
BEING OFFENDED means never having to answer an argument.
The conversation went something like this. Caller: "I want you to know your
column on drug legalization offended me."
Me: "Let me get this straight. Because I said drugs are soul-deadening and
far too lethal to legalize, you were offended?"
Caller: "That's right. It
made me want to hurl."
Charming, the way these Gen-Xers express themselves.
I don't hear this more than a few dozen times a week: "I'm offended." "I'm
deeply offended." "I was really offended." "I found your column very
They should turn it into a song, the hymn of the hypersensitive. "O say can
you see, that which offended me? If you do, cut it our, or I'll start to
Liberals are addicted to displays of indignation. Increasingly, the left
believes that certain ideas are inherently evil. Instead of seeking a
dialogue, they righteously proclaim their outrage and wait for the offending
party to wither.
Minority spokesmen are easily affronted. Because others of their kind
suffered in the past, the rest of us are expected to walk on eggshells when
discussing anything that relates to them.
Challenge their distortions of history, refuse to wallow in guilt for the
sins of the past, or tell them they're not entitled to whatever group
benefits they demand, and you are attacking them, denying their humanity,
perpetuating negative stereotypes and condoning racism.
I recently offended (very, deeply) some American Indians with a column on
the Smithsonian's new politically correct Indian Museum by writing that I
objected to having my tax dollars used to slander my country.
That seemed to me like a simple, straightforward proposition. But, no,
because I protested the creation of a federally funded institution to
propagate the lie that America was founded on genocide, I was mocking their
"I'm offended" has become the all-purpose cop out. No need to deal with
ideas. Facts and history are irrelevant. The sole criterion is your mental
state, that your paper-thin skin has been pierced.
You don't want a discussion. You demand a groveling apology and a promise
never to be offensive -- i.e., to challenge dogma -- again.
The current sensitivity craze is grounded in the '60s, when emotions became
the center of the universe.
All that mattered was feeling something deeply. To feel was to be
authentic. And the stronger the emotion, the more certain that it was true.
(Nuremberg would seem to refute this.)
Being offended was a litmus test -- proof of the depth and sincerity of our
The primacy of feelings is now pervasive. After a recent debate at
Princeton, I was approached by a student who became visibly agitated when I
didn't accede to her position almost as soon as she had stated it.
Couldn't I see how much she believed it? How could I deny the validity of
her emotions by failing to agree with her?
The problem with arguing from outrage is that both sides, and any number,
can play the game.
You're offended by opposition to affirmative action. I'm offended by
policies that penalize people for no reason other than their race or gender.
You're offended by a failure to recognize what you call a woman's right to
"control her body." I'm offended by those who treat the unborn child as a
non-issue in this debate.
You're offended by religious people trying to "force their morality on the
rest of us." Others are offended by those who would relegate religious
conservatives to second-class citizenship, denying them the democratic
rights (including the right to try to have their values written into law)
afforded everyone else.
That we are offended proves absolutely nothing other than our subjective
state of mind. And there will never be a meeting of minds if we can't
rationally discuss issues free of unsubtle forms of intimidation. (You have
offended me. Therefore, you are bad.)
You're offended and you want an apology? OK, here it is.
I'm sorry that you're offended. I'm sorry you can't deal with ideas. I'm
sorry you're intimidated by dissent from the prevailing orthodoxy. I'm sorry
you think your emotions are all that counts. And, I'm sorry we can't discuss
this like grown-ups.
If you're offended by this column, write your congressman, ask your
therapist to help you cope, tell it to the Marines. But, please, spare
JWR contributing columnist Don Feder's latest book is Who's Afraid of the Religious Right. Comment on his column by clicking here.
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©1999, Creators Syndicate