Wednesday, January 11, 2012

The Right to Offend

I don't do this often, or at least I don't think I do:  Rant.  I'll try not to stay up here on the soapbox too long, but something has been niggling at me since a blog post I read this morning and I just have to get it out of my head.

It has to do with one of my Daily Fix reads.  I usually enjoy the irreverent style of this British writer, his insight and observations are very entertaining.  His posts are long, including this one today about shaving off his beard to start a new year, to change things up a bit, to look fresh.  So far, so good.  As he's shaving, he arrives at the Hitler moment when he removes his mustache but leaves that little caterpillar under his nose.  He diverts here, and muses about Hitler; how this style of mustache is forevermore equated with evil and yet Charlie Chaplin wore it first.   He ponders leaving this bit of villainy on his upper lip to see what people will think, what they might say to him, perhaps he might even get a physical reaction out of some.  By his own admission he writes that he enjoys giving offense.

Hmmm.  I frown slightly at that.  I was so liking this post, but now I feel...uncomfortable.  What is the purpose in giving offense?  Why would it be enjoyable to upset people, hurt their feelings, perhaps wound them?  I shake my head, scattering these thoughts, and read on.

Several more paragraphs, then I get to the part that so totally offends me, I can't believe what I'm reading.  And let me say right out: I don't get offended easily.  He's writing about an incident at some regatta he attended, doesn't say when, but he enjoyed the killer looks he got from American military guys, on a hot day at the river at this boating event.  He was apparently wearing--his own words again--a deeply offensive tee shirt about 9/11.  He goes on to say, blithely, that he must be growing up a bit because for a moment the memory makes him cringe.  For a moment?  Are you kidding me?  Holy crap.

I don't understand.  I really don't.  Again, what does a person get out of being so offensive?  What's the payout, the reward, the frigging purpose?

I really wanted to write something in the Comments section of his blog, but after reading the ones already posted--where, I might add, only one person out of 17 made a half-ass attempt to even acknowledge the tee shirt statement--I was at a complete loss what to say.  And, don't get me wrong here: the guy can write any damn thing he pleases on his own blog site, that's assuredly his right; I am not being forced to read his words after all.  But still.  The cavalier, even cruel insouciance as he enjoys offending is disturbing to me.

Walking the dogs along the river, pondering, stewing, rolling thoughts around in my mind.  For one of those rare times in my life, I am without words to express myself properly.  Then, driving home up the mountain, clarity strikes.  I sigh with heartfelt relief to realize it's a measure of my humanity, and personal integrity, that I'm so offended!  What kind of woman would I be otherwise?

So.  I didn't post anything on the guy's blog, no point.  I had a momentary meltdown--and I still don't understand getting pleasure out of offending--but I came out the other side with a clearer sense of self.  And from my perspective?  I would much rather be the offended than the offender.

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