It wouldn’t be the holiday season without controversy. Usually it’s the Starbucks coffee cups: OHMAHGAH, secularism! OHMAHGAH, lesbians! OHMAHGAH…nothing! Nothing on the cup but red! OHMAHGAH, how offensive that they didn’t give us something to be offended by!
This year it’s a classic holiday tune, “Baby, It’s Cold Outside.” Some folks have their panties in a wad about it. OHMAHGAH, it’s sexist! OHMAHGAH, it’s about date rape!
People, calm your teats. Really. It’s a song. If you don’t like it, don’t listen to it—kind of like how if you don’t like Christmas sweaters, don’t wear one; if you don’t like “It’s a Wonderful Life,” don’t watch it; and if you don’t like Grandma’s Christmas aspic, don’t eat it.
Well, okay, maybe eat some of the Christmas aspic so you don’t make Grandma sad.
Unless you’re a vegetarian like me, in which case, Grandma’s dog is going to have gas from eating aspic under the table.
Point is, what a luxury, what a bit of privilege, to have nothing more pressing, nothing more harrowing, nothing more urgent to worry about than a 70-year-old song.
Me, I’m done with the Perennially Offended. Whenever I encounter people who get bent about things like coffee cups and songs and pronounce “I’m offended” like the whole world is supposed to stop, consider their tender sensibilities, and make all of existence a “safe space” where they will never have to face anything more abrasive than the cotton balls they stuff into their ears when they’re confronted by an opposing opinion, I channel George Carlin: “So what?”
Invariably their response goes something like this:
Then they’ll stare at me like how dare I not sympathize with them, how dare I not commiserate and comfort them in their moment of indignation? It’s like they cannot believe that someone is not going to apologize for having a different view, at which point I will say something like, “Look, not everyone sees things the way you do.”
Now don’t get me wrong. I’m not talking about tolerating intolerance, hate speech, prejudice, or discrimination. It wasn’t too long ago that I confronted some tourists from Texas who were nattering on about “homo judges” while walking down Pennsylvania Avenue. I turned around and told them that such talk is not welcome here.
I’m talking about things that ultimately don’t make a lick of difference because they’re a matter of taste and interpretation. I could sit here and come up with a list of songs, paintings, photographs, movies, TV shows, books, articles, and social media posts that I could find offensive, but so what? People aren’t going to stop creating them, and people aren’t going to stop enjoying them. I’d be one lousy excuse for a writer if I sought censorship just to accommodate my sense of aesthetics, and getting offended about every little thing is only going to make me look like a whiner.
Of course, you’re entirely welcome to your opinion, and you’re absolutely welcome to spend your time looking for things to be offended by, but I’ll leave you with this gem from Hubert Humphrey:
The right to be heard does not automatically include the right to be taken seriously.