When did we all get so damned sensitive and unyielding?
As he has written in the past, The Curmudgeon finds it unfortunate that we, as a society, have a growing tendency to write off people and institutions because of one misstep or misspoken word. Sometimes those missteps are small, sometimes they’re large, and sometimes they really are unforgivable, but mostly they’re just missteps and that’s all.
They can be Joe Biden’s tendency to let words escape his mouth a few seconds before completely processing what he really means to say. Or NFL commissioner Roger Goodell applying societal standards a whole six months or so behind the times when administering punishment to football players who beat on the women in their lives. Or even Kevin McCarthy, who probably would be Speaker of the House today if not for an unfortunate comment about Hillary Clinton and Benghazi that absolutely everyone knew to be true but no one dared speak aloud.
He dared. He lost.
The Curmudgeon does it, too; he is by no means exempt from this criticism and worries constantly – he is, after all, a worrier as well as a curmudgeon – that he’s taking himself too seriously atop this bully pulpit. In his defense, he offers only this: first, that this is, after all, a blog practically built around the concept of kvetching; and second, that you should see some of the things he starts to write about, only to realize that doing so would be taking things way, waaaay too far.
A number of recent events in the public arena have resulted in a lot of hue and cry about what are, when you think about it, minor matters. Earlier this week, Philadelphia Daily News columnist Ronnie Polaneczky declared that she’s mad as hell and not going to take it anymore and took us to task for it in her own special way.
The Curmudgeon can’t recall exactly how long Ronnie’s been writing for the Daily News, but however long it’s been, that’s how long he’s been reading her. She’s smart, she’s interesting, she’s thought-provoking, and she’s compassionate, and that combination is in short supply these days. Sometimes The Curmudgeon agrees with what she’s written, sometimes he disagrees, and sometimes he wants to pull a Ralph Kramden and declare “Bang, zoom, you’re going to the moon, Ronnie.”
But he doesn’t stop reading her.
And that’s the whole point.
So here’s Ronnie’s column (or go directly to the philly.com web site and read it here). Enjoy – and read her.
Losing our minds in the age of overblown offense
I’VE BEEN HOLDING back a primal scream for days. If I don’t let loose, I swear on all that’s holy that my head is going to explode off my neck and destroy the holidays for my family. So here goes.
Stop it, people. Just please, please, please stop it.
I’m talking to you, coffee drinkers outraged that Starbucks coffee cups aren’t “Christmassy” enough this year. If you need to sip your Peppermint Hot Chocolate Mocha Parsley With Salted Beef in a ceramic Baby Jesus mug shaped like a manger, go to the dollar store and buy one.
That includes you, Donald Trump, with your call for a Starbucks boycott – which comes on the heels of your calls to boycott HBO, Scotland, Italy, Oreos and Chinese products (even though your signature Donald Trump ties are made in China).
You mean none of it, you honor none of them.
Just shut up, you oversize Christmas elf.
And yo, University of Missouri students who don’t want the media to cover your public protest activities on the public land of the public school you attend, I have three words for you:
Get over yourselves.
All the media attention was fine by you, when your football team was calling for the university president’s head last weekend. It worked – and props to the guys for taking a bold stand against the man’s racial tone-deafness.
Now? You don’t want the press.
“Wahhhh!” you wail, “go away!” Your feelings are ruffled by some of the public response to your activism, which you think is the same thing as having your rights trampled. It’s not. The fact that you don’t appear to know that makes me wonder about Mizzou’s American history classes.
Then again, one of your supporters is mass-media professor Melissa Click, who was so incensed that the press – including reporters from your own school – was covering your activities, she sought help from bystanders.
“Hey, who wants to help me get this reporter out of here?” she yelled. “I need some muscle over here!”
Uh-huh. A communications professor – whose job is to use her words, like a big girl – felt that the way to communicate a difference of opinion was to escalate tensions with “muscle.” What else is in her tool kit – bullwhips?
Please don’t tell me that Click has a tenured university job for life, or I will smash my head through my computer.
You know who else needs to stop it already, like, yesterday?
Anyone who cares whether Jeb Bush would kill Baby Hitler.
OK, No. 1: I can’t believe I just wrote that sentence in reference to a presidential candidate. And No. 2: I can’t believe it’s based in fact. But, yes, Bush told the Huffington Post that he’d actually been asked if he would kill a baby Hitler if he were able to go back in time and do so.
The dignified answer would’ve been, “That’s an absurd question for a man who hopes to run this country one day. Next, please.”
Instead, he said, “Hell, yeah, I would. Ya gotta step up, man!”
He then shared, with great erudition, that movies like “Back to the Future” have proved that changing a difficult past does not guarantee an awesome present.
The former Florida guv was just having a little fun. But it was lost on a significant swath of Americans who tweeted their horror that Bush would kill a baby if given a chance.
Except he didn’t, and can’t, because – seriously, people – time travel? Have we lost our minds?
No. But we may be losing our resilience and sense of proportion.
Take Target’s new holiday sweater, whose front is emblazoned with the message “OCD: Obsessive Christmas Disorder.” It seems a harmless message, aimed at revelers who start decking the halls in July. But the retail chain has been accused by some who suffer from obsessive-compulsive disorder of trivializing mental illness.
“Let @Target Know That We Will Be Boycotting Their Store Until They Remove This Item,” tweeted one offended shopper.
To which Target evenhandedly responded, “We never want to disappoint our guests and we apologize for any discomfort. We currently do not have plans to remove this sweater.”
As Black Friday approaches, let’s see how that works for them.
And right here in Philly, a teacher at Springside Chestnut Hill Academy was reprimanded for wearing a noose costume on Halloween. For some parents, it called to mind lynchings and suicides – which is something the teacher never considered, as his costume was inspired by the board game Clue. (The game’s rope is one of several weapons for the “Clue Master Detective,” reported my colleague Val Russ in her story about the controversy. Other weapons include a wrench, a lead pipe, a revolver, a horseshoe and a candlestick.)
Did parents object to gory costumes, too, which might mock the city’s high murder rate? Or to skeleton outfits, which might offend an anorexic? Or to “bald caps,” which could hurt the feelings of chemo patients?
I know these questions might cross a line, but that’s because I have no idea anymore where so many of the lines actually are. I want to be sensitive to the feelings and experiences of others.
Kindness is a good thing.
But I throw my hands in the air when people who are offended that their minds weren’t read or their hurt anticipated immediately call for “muscle” or a boycott.
I don’t know what ever happened to conversation. The kind where we ask, with curiosity: “Can you tell me what motivated you to do/say that thing? Because I have some thoughts I’d like to share. Are you up for hearing them?”
But that’s 161 characters, and Twitter maxes out at 140.
Who am I kidding? It’ll never fly.