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Location: Ames, Iowa, United States

Monday, February 07, 2005

Offensive Language? Or Thin Skinned Crybabys?

I have long been admonished by those in authority to keep my comments to myself, or at least to modify what I say so as not to offend others. My parents said it. My teachers said it. My bosses at work said it. I always found ways to get around these demands, without getting kicked out of school or fired from my job. You can say stuff, as long as you say it in generalities, instead of directly attacking someone face to face. But that isn't as satisfying as being able to tell someone what you really think. To call a fat person lardo, or a skinny person pencil, or a stupid person moron, or somebody with acne pizza face is the way we acted in Junior High. Our teachers admonished us, and we slowly got in line. We acted more maturely. We keep our feelings inside, because we want friends, or because we need that job. But we still think stuff that could be considered objectionable to others. The problem is, there is almost nothing one can say when voicing an opinion that won't piss off at least a few. Society has decided what can be said, and what can be done to someone who says the wrong thing. Nowadays, the lawsuit is the favorite response to offensive words and/or actions. It's too bad that freedom of speech isn't really free. Salman Rushdie (Satanic Verses) has written a good piece for the LA Times about this. Here's a quote:

"Offense and insult are part of everyday life for everyone in Britain (or the U.S., for that matter). All you have to do is open a daily paper and there's plenty to offend. Or you can walk into the religion section of a bookshop and discover you're damned to various kinds of eternal hellfire, which is certainly insulting, not to say overheated.The idea that any kind of free society can be constructed in which people will never be offended or insulted, or in which they have the right to call on the law to defend them against being offended or insulted, is absurd."

His argument is aimed at a new law that may be passed in Great Britain. It will make it a crime to say bad things about somebody based on their religion. I agree with Rushdie. That would be a major step back in progressive thought. Unless an incitement is made to cause bodily harm to someone, I feel one should be able to say what they want (as long as what is said is the truth).
My response to those who object to things I say is: 1. If the shoe fits, wear it. 2. Get over it.
3. If you can't stand the heat, get out of the kitchen. 4. etc.

I'll be back



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