When did advocating civility become a bad thing?
Last week, I wrote about my personal objection to the expression “that’s so gay,” a needless and usually thoughtless insult that, unfortunately, shows little sign of abating in popular culture.
And boy, did I hear it from some of you.
“How about promoting thicker skins instead of curbing language?” one reader weighed in.
“We have turned into a society who tip-toes so as to not offend anyone. Maybe people should just be less easily offended,” wrote another, who [full disclosure] is an acquaintance of mine with a terrific singing voice.
“How can we compete globally as a nation of thin-skinned crybabies?” asked a third.
These criticisms raise a valid point, one I agree with. But they miss a valid point, too: I just don't see why it has to be an either-or proposition.
Let’s clarify: I intended to share what I think and what I'm doing with my conversations and my household. Yes, I hope you agree with me and do the same, but I don't advocate the counterproductive approach taken in one of the public service announcements I posted (comedienne Wanda Sykes berates a group of teenagers at a pizzeria who use the expression, reinforcing the stereotype of 'voluntarily indignant' p.c. police barging into other people’s conversations, uninvited, to tell them what they can and cannot say).
Some of us (myself included) need to grow a thicker skin. A thick skin is a virtue, no doubt. Looking for offense around every corner helps no one, and butting in on other people’s conversations only compounds rudeness, in my view.
But I don’t see where developing a thick skin on my part excuses a lack of politeness on yours.
A thick skin and a respectful attitude are not mutually exclusive virtues. They can, indeed should, coexist peacefully.
It's not about barging into other people's conversations. It's about taking responsibility for my own, and passing that sense of responsibility and respect onto my kids. You would think no one would have a problem with that, but some people do. They think any sensitivity is hypersensitivity, any voluntary show of respect a mandatory surrender to the ironically intolerant forces of political correctness.
In their paranoia, they turn boorishness into a virtue, and woe to those who have the inner decency to recognize their boorishness for what it is.
Here’s what I think: some people enjoy being offensive, and they hate being called on it. They gleefully use words as weapons to spread their rudeness, either with deliberate intent or reckless disregard, and when their rudeness has its inevitable effect and they are called on it, they play the victim by accusing their critics of political correctness or hypersensitivity.
Or they play the misunderstood comic genius, branding themselves as “equal-opportunity offenders” in the style of Don Rickles, failing to understand how Rickles brilliantly undermined bigotry by exposing its ugliness. Rickles should sue such amateurs for slander.
It is the height of hypocrisy, how they whine about the criticism by telling other people not to be so sensitive to their deliberate or reckless rudeness. Or worse, in other cases, they imply or state outright that because they're not offended by an insult that wasn't directed at them in the first place, no one else should be. The arrogance!
The truth is, you don’t have to be thin-skinned to know rudeness when you see it. There should be nothing wrong with insisting on civility in yourself, or in passing that virtue on to your kids.
So thanks for the advice. I'll teach my kid to grow a thicker skin. And to be a decent person, to boot. I've found that if you’re any good at either, it's not hard to be good at both.
A little credit where credit is due: to the best of my knowledge, the term "voluntarily indignant" was coined by Sun-Sentinel TV writer Tom Jicha to describe those who are quick to take offense. It's a good term, but I didn't ask him for permission to borrow it. Gee, I hope he's not offended by that...
POSTED IN: Politics (18)
, Rafael Olmeda 2010 (42)
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