COVID-19 and the death of manufactured offense

I don't know when you're reading this, but if it's not long after it goes up, you're probably still mostly sticking to your home. And if you're doing that, you probably have a lot of extra time to find new ways to ignore the people you live with reflect.

I was part of a wave of high schoolers in the early 1990s who kicked off a wave of political correctness that, a generation later, seems to have run amok.

We by no means invented political correctness. It had been around since the Russian revolution, and waves of political correctness hit the U.S. in the 1970s and 1980s.

There are two primary things I remember from our era:

(1) The flattening of race. Rather than "Chinese" or "Japanese" or "Korean" or asking, "what are you?", our generation asked people to consider a term like Asian-American. At the same time, we struggled with a term like African-American, since not all people who present as black are of African descent.

(2) Recognition of females in Judaism. This is a lasting thing, by the way. Newer prayer books acknowledge the contributions of traditional matriarchs as well as patriarchs, though they try to skirt around the fact that the Hebrew versions of prayers use masculine words, so the translations also come out as awkward, saying "God" where "God" is the appropriate translation, but also where "Lord" and "He" are more appropriate translations.

We seem to have hit a different time in the history of political correctness, though, with many different recognized (and sometimes unrecognizable) pronouns and people with soft triggers and my approach has generally been this:

(a) I'm not out to hurt anybody intentionally. I'm happy to call you what you want to be called or not call you what you don't want to be called, but don't make me guess and if I mess up, just correct me.

(b) Actually, that's it. Don't hurt anybody intentionally, but if you're hurt, don't assume people were out to hurt you. Most of us are just dummies trying to live our lives.

I call this ability to be easily offended "manufactured offense."


Here's the cool thing about manufactured offense: We live in a time in which unintended verbal offense can be a central worry for some people! That means we're worried about words, not tigers or Genghis Khan or any major threat to life and limb.

But this novel coronavirus has us behaving differently. We're caring for our neighbors. We're doing things to keep other people safe.

When we're through this, I hope that people continue to not hurt each other intentionally, but I hope people who are easily offended start to realize they have bigger things to worry about.

Lift each other up, people, stay safe and keep everyone healthy.

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