Wednesday, November 11, 2015

PC America

Yesterday, I became aware of something via social media that I couldn't have imagined would be an issue to people. All I kept seeing was post after post about Starbucks and their holiday season cups. I was fully prepared for the tired old complaint that "Merry Christmas" so festively printed across someone's warm paper cup of overpriced joe forces Christianity down their throats. Or maybe it was going to be a "Happy Holidays" generic wish to all patrons and the following outrage that God was now being forced into absence in American society by liberal, hippie corporations of the Pacific Northwest. But nope. Didn't happen. Instead, it was outrage over a simple, no-frills red design to temporarily replace the normal white ones. No abstract snowflakes. No vague outlines of evergreen trees. Just red. Most Americans picked up their order, said "Hey, the cup is red," shrugged, and moved on. But a (I imagine very small) group of people decided that this was an outrage.

It seems that the very absence of anything at all, so some, detracts from the reason this season is considered special to people. Admittedly, the overwhelming cultural influence on the months of November and December is the Christian holiday of Christmas. True. But it's also worth reminding Americans that there are Jews who celebrate Hannukah, people who celebrate Kwanza, and then millions of people here who practice hundreds of other religions or no religion at all. It's easy to forget that your way isn't necessarily for everyone else. Still, even people who aren't Christians celebrate this season as a time for family, giving, hope, thanks, and shameless commercialism. You can be a Hindu and participate in the office Secret Santa exchange. Religion is a personal thing. What you celebrate is a personal choice. You don't have to ram it down every American's throat every chance you get. You do you. And if you need "Merry Christmas" emblazened upon your pumpkin spice latte to feel like a Christian, perhaps you might need to spend a little more time in church.

But this got me thinking, first, about hypocrisy. Funny enough, it's highly likely that these same individuals screaming about how Christianity is under attack...over a damned coffee cup...are the same people who have been whining for months about how easily offended everyone else is. "Toughen up," they say. "Why is everyone so easily offended? Everything has to be soooo politically correct. The Confederate Flag is just a symbol of southern heritage." Okay, fair enough. That's your opinion and your unique perspective. But within this hypocrisy over what warrants outrage, complaint, or even protest, can't we see that such sensitivity over a certain event or subject absolutely has everything to do with personal perspective? Wouldn't you say that everyone can be offended by something? Personally, I'm not offended by much. I can appreciate poking fun at most anything--and I do mean anything. But it's worth saying that a poorly-timed joke about ALS (Lou Gherig's Disease) might touch a nerve with me, and many people in my wife's family for that matter. My mother-in-law died of this horrible disease almost nine years ago. But how are you to know that in passing? One minute, I'm laughing at a diabetes joke, and the moment you hit ALS, it's not funny. Or with my Louisiana roots, Katrina wouldn't be funny to me. But if these things aren't close to your heart, no big deal. That's not your fault. There's a point where we all have to realize the risks of humor or opinion. We might meet with a person with strong feelings about this, and they're going to react. That's life. But have Americans become too PC? Too sensitive? Too easily offended? Social media memes would have you think so. It's been a very popular set of memes and mosts lately. Here's your answer. NO. WE HAVE NOT BECOME TOO SENSITIVE.

It used to be that the only way you would come across public opinion or learn of a grassroots movement, protest, strike, whatever, was to read it in the paper or to see it on the evening news. Reporters collected information and you got it through those media outlets. Fifty years ago, you would have been reading about marches in Alabama or the Freedom Riders. You would've formed an opinion, and if you wanted to express that opinion, it would have been to Gladys, Dorothy, and Martha at your weekly Bridge game. And that's about as far as it would have gone. Maybe you wrote a letter to the editor and the whole town saw it. Public opinion was localized and public expression was minimal. On top of that, the only information you had to go on to form those opinions came from a limited set of sources and people. But times have changed. Back in the day, if you witnessed something that sucks--something you took personal offense to or saw that you disapproved of, chances are that very few people were going to get wind of it. You tell a few friends, you mutter under your breath about "what this world is coming to", and you go about your business. Today, you can take a video on your phone, upload it to Youtube or Facebook, and tell everyone you know about what a crazy asshole this person is. And just maybe enough people will like and share that post that by dinnertime three million Americans in twenty-eight states know what a crazy asshole that person is. And then there is a reaction. Immediately. You see, what we mistake for oversensitivity over a subject is really just regular sensitivity over it. We just happen to see everyone's reaction to it in real time. We have a lot more exposure to things that potentially outrage us, we have a forum for expression of that opinion, and we might find a million or so other people in the world that agree with us as passionately. So through internet and the social media, we are now able to grasp the full magnitude of how our whole population actually feels about a subject. And I find this outrageous.

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