Fear of Offending

Political correctness has gotten so out of control that it often prevents people from communicating at all.

All it does is make life more frustrating for people who are already neurotically sensitive. I worry about offending people all the time. I watch what I say and write and often agonize over a simple e-mail:

If I say A, the recipient will think I’m mad at them.

If I say B, it sounds overly familiar.

If I say C, it sounds too flippant.

If I say D, it’s too long, and of course I don’t want to offend the busy.

But as a cultural force, it’s not helping. Many people are as fanatical and aggressive as ever. But when I’m in trouble for something I’ve said, it affects me deeply. My firsthand knowledge of this is what keeps me vigilant.

Political correctness is a blight to open communication. Even when people see something they know is wrong, they won’t speak up if they think it will be perceived as an affront to someone’s race or religion.

Where I live, “Well it’s a cultural thing” is a common statement by the strongly liberal to explain away disturbing habits. In my intimate world, it’s chained dogs and garbage. It’s a cultural thing?  I fall victim to this way of thinking also. I go pick up the garbage myself to avoid appearing confrontational. It’s sad and absurd, don’t you think?

As I write this, I worry about being offensive. I am neither liberal nor conservative. I hate being forced to choose sides. Why can’t we have a People Who Think About Stuff political party?

The word “racist” is the most overused word in America. No matter what your politics, you’re probably not a racist. It’s an ugly, ugly concept. Fear of being called a racist is not a true motivation for the choices we make. It’s a phobia that deepens the impact of political correctness in a way that is not helpful to anyone. It makes us feel guilty for being alive. I feel somehow slightly brainwashed.


9 responses to “Fear of Offending

  1. Flippancy eh? I love it, this speaks volumes to me!

  2. Any group that has had to punch its way up from the bottom of the food chain first attacks vocabulary, and that is as it should be. Words are powerful. They can make or break. Blacks, at some point in time, decided rightly that “black” was not a bad word, it is what they are, and in a relatively short time, it replaced the word “negro.” Today old is the new black, with one major difference – my generation (WWII) is about as militant as a lump of rancid cheese. I can’t be an army of one but I can do what I can do in a little way and that is to say “WHOA NELLIE” at the use of certain words and phrases. These include “old lady,” “senior citizen,” “senior moment,” “elderly” and such. Yes, I will speak up and I will jump salty if someone throws these epithets at me. And perhaps in a few more generations, the phrase “older person” will come into use, and people will exercise their minds and memory so that “senior moments” will diminish and perhaps go away.

  3. I had no idea senior was a dirty word, so I apologize. It used to be a word of respect. But unfortunately many older persons do fit the bill, that’s just the way it is. You are an anomaly—most 77-year-olds do not skate, have meaningful jobs, or drive well. If the older lady I am helping get a hearing aid were given keys to a car, she would kill someone, even if she could hear. She’s cranky and thinks everybody on the road is an asshole. And some of the older people I clean for are truly miserable to work for, so it’s understandable that people get impatient with them.

    However, the older ladies who run the animal shelter are as tough as they come—and you know what? Nobody calls them senior citizens, we call them amazing and we worry about them constantly if they get sick. But because they have a passion, they recover and get back to work.

  4. Here’s my problem with “old lady.” Think about it, you’re a wordsmith, muse on it. Notice the subtle, perhaps even genteel, way in which it strips me entirely of my flesh-and-blood womanhood. Old woman is somewhat of an improvement but not entirely. Polish children are taught never to refer to a woman as “stara” (old) but instead “starsza,” (oldER). I think this is a lesson we could learn. As for respect, some respect is just the flip side of contempt (i.e., senior citizen). True respect acknowledges that a person or group is part of the greater society and the lifestream. However, since much of my generation has elected to remove itself from said lifestream, all I can say is what the Divine Michael (Jackson) pointed out, you want change, look at the man in the mirror. And by the way, the oldER WOMEN at the animal shelter sound great – just my cuppa coffee! Passion cuts it every time!

  5. I had plenty of time to think about this today as I took the deaf lady to do her shopping. I realize now that “old” is not about age, it’s about attitude. I know people older than this lady whom I do not consider “old” because they are vibrant, passionate people.

    The deaf lady is neither. She doesn’t care about people or animals. All she does is complain—about EVERYTHING. I have done everything possible to help her get a hearing aid. Her hearing test was supposed to be Monday—I planned my day around it. Today she told me she cancelled it because she has other doctor appointments this week and “it’s too much.” I freaking give up.

    So she will continue to be a cranky old lady to me. However, the woman who runs the local animal rescue group, who is 8 years older than the deaf lady, is not old in any way—and I’ve never heard anyone refer to her as an old woman, ever.

    You said you usually hate pretty people on sight. But not all pretty people are spoiled, they’re just as messed up, abused, bullied, poor, etc., as anyone else. Some work their butts off to do good. We can’t judge them any more than judging older people. And I would never call you an old lady!

  6. wow, what an ungrateful OLD LADY! Yep indeed, she merits the title! This may explain why her adult kids prefer not to even get started with her.

  7. I think of that too, but still…the son makes 200K a year and won’t send his mother a $75 co-pay? Bastard.

    I wonder if her bad temper is caused by the deafness. She thinks everybody is mean to her—persecution complex? They’re not mean, it’s just that she can’t hear them and assumes they’re being mean.

  8. I’m an old codger, semi recluse and becoming more deaf by the day. I look at these things as being badges awarded by living so long. I’ve had periodontal surgery twice and it was my doctor for the second one that put it in perspective. He said “You know you would not have had this problem if you had lived 200 years ago, you would have been dead by the time you reached your current age.”
    Call me old man, senior, golden ager old codger, old fart I could care less just give me my discount for being old!

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