Monday, February 12, 2018
Where I come from, there’s an adage that indicates an error in judgement, that says, “You’re barking up the wrong tree.” Well, today people say that such and such speech is not “politically correct”. The implication is that what is said is offensive and shouldn’t be said.
That is where things go awry. Nothing can be said that is “offensive”. It may be intended to be offensive, but the hearer has to choose to be offended, it is the hearer’s prerogative to choose his response. Many times offense is not necessarily the speaker’s intention.
It was once said, “He who takes offense when offense was not intended is a fool, yet he who takes offense when offense is intended is an even greater fool for he has succumbed to the will of his adversary.” (Brigham Young) This is a very true statement. Think about it, if someone is offended by what the other person says, then the person offended is no longer in control. His/her feelings are now in the hands of their opposition.
Here’s a prime example; members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (LDS) were first called “Mormons” as a derogatory term used to incite people to riot against the members of that church. Many were persecuted, even with physical violence and death because they were "Mormons". Now, it is acceptable to use that term to signify that a person is a member of that church. Although members prefer to be called members of the LDS church instead, members choose not to takes offense at being called a Mormon. The difference is the way the hearer reacts to the word, not the intent of the speaker.
A college professor is reported to have posed something like the following question to his class, which is more hurtful, a white man hitting a black man in the face with his fist, or the white man calling the black man the “N” word (obviously I am being politically correct in not saying the word)? The consensus was that the name calling was more hurtful. Not to defend the speaker who was obviously intending to be hurtful, but who was the person taking offense?
Society has turned anyone who says something contrary to what the hearer wants to hear into an offender. Where is the responsibility of the hearer to choose whether to be offended or not? A wise man once said, “And unto him that smiteth thee on the one cheek offer also the other” (Jesus Christ). If that advice were followed, then who could be offended? Not taking offense at what others say disarms them. They are no longer in control. The person they intend to injure with their offensive speech or epithet does not respond to their harangue with anger, but calmly responds or walks away. Who then is the bigger person, he who harangues or he who walks away?
It is a shame that our society, that not too many years ago, would defuse volatile situations by either calmly responding or walking away, now chooses to burn down cities and kill people over things that someone else says or does wrongly. Would there have been reason to riot in Ferguson Missouri had someone not spread the false rumor of “hands up don’t shoot”? How many other instances have there been when individuals with the intent of inciting to riot have achieved their goal by making one group or the other an offender over something that was said or done?
I am not saying there have not been instances where things have happened that are offensive, or even inciting, but I am saying that the responsibility for the response to these instances lies squarely on the shoulders of the person who is offended, not the person who may or may not have intended to offend. Our country used to be the bastion of rational thought and action. How could we have allowed factions in among us who turn one against another for a word? Where has the ideology of thinking before acting gone? The only way to defuse a bad situation is for one or the other party to think about their actions, whether they are mindlessly inciting to riot, or mindlessly rioting over something someone else said or did. To use another adage, the “ball is always in the court” of the hearer. The choice is always in the hands of the one who receives the harangues and epithets of the other, whether to react in kind or be the bigger person and defuse the situation.