Everyone Must Have The Right To Offend Others

by Jere Krischel

Most people would like to live in a polite world.  It’s pleasing to think of a utopia somewhere, out there, that contains nothing but agreeable conversation, avoids conflict at all cost, and carefully avoids any sort of controversy in word or deed.  But in fact, this is a dystopian vision, and can only be afforded at the cost of individual freedom and liberty.

We live in a world of diversity, filled with people of widely varying cultures, ideals, appearances and beliefs.  Some people like to butter their bread on top; others on the bottom.  Some people refuse any bread at all, and just eat the butter straight.  All of this diversity is generally accepted as a “Good Thing.”  But at the same time we insist people have the right to their differences, our politically correct politeness demands that *all* groups must somehow be forced to conform to avoid offending *any* groups.

And so the seeds of chaos are sown.  If one group is offended by butter on the top of bread, all other groups must refrain from buttering their bread on top, or at least not in public.  If another group is offended by butter on the bottom of bread, we prohibit that as well.  Eventually, everything is forbidden, and if we give it just a small chance, we’ll find someone offended by the fact that someone else is offended by something, creating an infinite loop unenforceable by any number of politeness police.

Two recent incidents showcase the full level of this politically correct idiocy.  The first was the revelation that Mormons were posthumously baptizing Holocaust survivors, which offended Jewish rabbis.  Now, there’s no doubt that the idea of dousing oneself in water to save the soul of someone who already died and was of a different religion is, well…odd…but offensive?  If we were to constrain the Jewish faith by the offenses taken by others, they might be forced to end male genital mutilation (aka circumcision), or forced to stop wearing hats indoors!

Frankly, if Mormon baptism of Jews was an issue, rabbis should simply create their own ritual to un-baptize Mormons (hopefully without genital mutilation).  They could not only fix the baptism of Holocaust survivors, but they could even un-baptize every living, breathing and believing Mormon alive today!  Whether or not Mormons would create a special “Baptismal Shield” ritual to block the Jewish “Un-Baptizing Ray” is an open question, but certainly the rabbis would be imaginative enough to create a “Baptismal Shield Breaker” ritual if that happened.

The second incident that stuck in my craw was an apology by Barack Obama, leader of the Free World, for the inappropriate disposal of Qurans.  Apparently, the only polite thing to do with a Quran (and apparently also with other holy books), is to treat it with honor, respect, and either bury it, or burn it in a solemn ceremony with only clean things.  Throwing it a trash pile when you’re done with it, and burning it with dirty things, or even thinking impure thoughts about a Quran is apparently both hell-worthy and riot-worthy.

I’m sorry, but that’s simply ridiculous.  What Obama should have strictly stated was this:

“We get it that you’re offended by how we disposed of the Qurans we had provided to prisoners, and that’s simply too bad for you.  The idea of freedom of speech and freedom of expression is sacred to us Americans, and while we certainly won’t be raiding mosques, collecting Qurans and burning them in the trash, if you’re our prisoner, and we’re nice enough to provide you with a Quran, just be grateful you got even that.  We are not here to bow down to every possible offense you might feel, and we will not constrain our actions simply because they don’t fit the narrative of your beliefs.”

Now, I voted for Perot, Perot, Nader, Nader and then McCain, but if Obama had gotten even *close* to that sentiment, I would’ve voted for him in 2012.  Our country stands for freedom, and that means that people can burn flags, that means people can burn Qurans, that means people can burn Bibles, that means gay men can make out in public, that means Nazis can parade down the street, that means Kawaiahao Church can exhume and move bodies to make room for new development, and that means that so long as my fist doesn’t hit your nose, I can swing it around as much as I damn well please.

The bottom line is this – there are two ways of dealing with feeling offended by others.  We can try to stop everybody in the world from doing anything offensive.  We can make a list of all the things people shouldn’t do, hand it out, and hope we’ve got enough thugs with guns to make everyone stick to it.  Or we can look deep in ourselves, and teach ourselves to not be offended by the actions of others…or at least not freak out as much when we are offended.

“I’m starting with the Man in the Mirror…” – Michael Jackson