No Offence Intended

- jim Young 20200701

“I'm just a soul whose intentions are good
Oh Lord, please don't let me be misunderstood.”
                                   - Bennie Benjamin, Horace Ott and Sol Marcus 

The first thing we learn to do as babies is how to communicate. If we are unhappy or uncomfortable we instinctively cry and our parents will attempt to soothe us.

Sometimes, however, they don’t soothe us in the way we want to be soothed.

We quickly learn that if we cry one way, they will feed us. If we cry a little differently they will change our diapers and yet another cry will get us rocked.

With that communication comes power. Just from crying.

As we grow older our needs become more complex and our sounds develop into words to accommodate these needs.

The average English speaking adult today knows and uses about 20,000 words and probably knows and understands another 20,000 words.

Almost every word also has multiple meanings, some up to 430.

However you look at it, that’s a lot of words to know AND understand.

Forming them into sentences to express what we really mean is another thing.

Just to complicate things, the actual meanings of some words change over time.

It’s not much wonder we need lawyers to draw up contracts to ensure the accuracy of the intent of everyone involved.

When you add to this, a volatile environment filled with raw emotion, you can be certain that someone is going to misinterpret and be offended by something that   else says.

The result? The communication returns to crying, leaving us to be as confused as a new parent trying to determine what the crying means.

How do we resolve this? Can it even be resolved?

Should the onus to make the communication clear be on the speaker or the listener?

Or both?

As a writer I try to choose words that will most clearly and eloquently communicate the idea I am attempting to express.

But it goes both ways.

In return, my expectation is that my readers will make some effort to ensure they are not taking the content of my words out of context.

If we could all do that, we might have fewer problems.

Take the simple expression “Black Lives Matter.” What does that mean?
Does that mean that “white lives don’t matter?” No.
Does it mean that “Black lives matter more than white lives?” No, it does not.

It just means that “Black Lives Matter”. Period. The context in which it was originally used was intended to bring attention to a series of circumstances in which black people were being treated unjustly, sometimes leading to death.

Nothing more, nothing less. To imply anything else is a disservice to the art of communication.

To paraphrase an old expression often attributed to Abraham Lincoln, “You can appease some of the people some of the time. But you can’t appease all of the people all of the time.” 

Of course people shouldn’t go out of their way to offend others, but at the same time others should not go out of their way to be offended.

There needs to be some “give and take” as well as some “take and give”.

In an attempt to appease anti-gun advocates, Elmer Fudd will no longer carry a gun.

Why? Are they afraid children will grow up to become a hunter like Elmer Fudd?

From my experience, I do not recall ever seeing Elmer Fudd use his gun in a school shooting. In fact I don’t ever recall seeing Elmer Fudd even shoot and actually kill an animal. Is being a poor hunter a justification to take one’s guns away from them?

I am sure there are many that consider me a poor writer, but does that justify taking away my keyboard? I hope not.

Yosemite Sam, on the other hand, seems to be a bit of a hot head that jumps into the scene, guns
blasting away indiscriminately. Perhaps there is a justification to temper Yosemite Sam’s temper a little in the interest of creating role models for impressionable young children.

Realtors are changing the terms “master bedroom” and “master bathroom” to “primary bedroom” and “primary bathroom” so as not to offend the black community. I have never associated the term “master bedroom” with any kind of a master/slave relationship.

Well, maybe in a kinky sort of way, on occasion (between consenting adults), but never in a racially discriminatory way.

Will we also need to remind our teenage boys, that “primary bating” will make them go blind?

Is the movie “Gone With The Wind” really any more offensive than textbooks that document this historical period of time?

If we want to remove all literary works that reference slavery, let’s also not forget to ban the Bible.

In an effort to reduce racism, reference to words such as “black” and “white” are being eliminated. Some rightly so.

But let’s not get carried away. Are names such as “Black Friday” or “White Christmas” really offensive? Of course not.

The “White House” is so named because it’s painted “white”, not because it’s any kind of racist comment. Should the Crayola company remove black and white crayons from their packages?

A campaign to portray Jesus as being non-white is based on factual evidence and not unreasonable. However there is no historical evidence to suggest Santa Claus was ever black.

Still, why would a black Santa Claus even offend someone unless they are going out of their way to be offended?

Didn’t we learn anything from the feminist movement a few years ago? Is a “manhole cover” really a sexist term?

Can a woman not be “chairman” of a board? Remember, if you take the “man” out of “woman” you are left with “woe”.

Hollywood no longer has actors and actresses. They are all just actors. So why do they still give awards to Best Actor and Best Actress? Because it makes sense.

Is it really sexist to have male and female sports? Is having sports categories by age considered age discrimination? Should an 8 year old be expected to compete against a 15 year old?

Most recently “The Dixie Chicks” have changed their name to “The Chicks” citing the racist reference to the word “Dixie”.

Wait, what? Isn’t “Chick” an offensive name for a woman? Perhaps they should just change their name to “The”.

Will “Dixie Cups” follow suit and become known simply as “Cups”? How will we differentiate between Dixie Cups and Bra Cups?

We need to learn to look past what everyone is saying and concentrate more on understanding what they mean. What is their intent? Once we know that we can better judge whether or not we should even be offended in the first place.

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