Friday, August 07, 2015

You Have the Right Not to Be Offended....

NOT !!!

This is going to be a brief post, as I am on deadline to get my novella for Christmas Revels II finished before my co-authors boil me in a Christmas pudding and put a stake of holly through my heart. (Those of you who know me know that, with me, BRIEF, is a relative term.) (Okay, I hear you people laughing. Keep it down to a dull roar.)
My rule for the internet, be it social media, loops I am on, or forums on which I participate is - NO POLITICS and NO RELIGION. And I pretty much hold to that. However, over the last few days there have been some discussions on several RWA loops that got me thinking. (Dangerous, I know!) I'm not going to get into specifics. But I do have a few thoughts on the idea that we all have this Constitutional right never to be offended. Ever. 

In one of my other lives, I taught high school English and history. One of the history courses I taught was American Government. Which means, I have read the Constitution. Several times. And in depth. And NOWHERE in the Constitution does it say we have the right to go through life and never, ever be offended. Go ahead and look. It isn't in there.

Now, that does NOT mean that people have the right to offend you and make you stand there and take it. And if someone or something offends you, you do have the right to :

1. Tell that person or entity you are offended.

2. Not support what that person or entity is selling, preaching, etc.

3. To change the channel or put down the book or not see the movie or not go to the concert.

4. To sign a petition or peacefully protest against whatever or whoever it is who has offended you.

(I once spent an entire day in an Austrian jail for protesting China's annexation of Tibet. At an 
 international summit. In Vienna. It offended me. I protested. I was arrested. I was out in time for

And I am certain there are other options I have forgotten, but you get the picture. If something offends you, you do have the right to say "I'm offended." and then respond accordingly.

Here is where the desire to create an offensive free world crosses the line.

Censorship - There are many books, magazines, musical offerings, films, websites, etc that offend me. I don't look at them. I don't buy them. Period. I do not, however, have the right to ban all of these items from other people who might enjoy them. (We're not talking about kiddie porn or other illegal stuff. We're grown ups. We all know what I mean.) 

My idea of what constitutes good music, or a good romance, or a good film may not be the same as the next person's. I love Pride and Prejudice. I also love Shaun of the Dead. Many feminists are offended by Pride and Prejudice. LOTS of people are offended by Shaun of the Dead. Guess what? They don't have to watch either of them. That's the great thing about living in a free society. 

You know what happens when everyone enjoys the same things, believes the same things, says the same things, does the same things and the world is a place where no one is upset, offended or ticked off by anything or anyone ever? Nothing. Absolutely nothing. 

There is no creativity. No free thinking. No growth. No life. Think about the amazing variety of books produced by romance writers every day, every month, every year. If you think all of these wonderful characters, stories, and worlds could be created in the perfect utopia of "Everybody's Happy and No One is Offended !" I've got a totalitarian regime that is looking for a new sucker, I mean member.

Every year when the Oscar nominations are announced I see some movies I just knew needed to be nominated and some movies where I thought the entire population of Hollywood must be smoking crack. Some movies about Southerners I have found particularly offensive. But someone, several someones, a lot of someones found them entertaining, enlightening, amusing or maybe these films contained something that simply spoke to them. 

If a book I hate, a book I find completely offensive for whatever reason, speaks to someone and makes their day better, their life better or simply makes them think, I am good with that. As artists we create in the hope what we create will speak to someone. It's about communication. And so long as the lines of communication are open, we all win. 

One of my favorite lines from the film version of the musical 1776 is when the Founding Fathers are "editing" the Declaration of Independence in such a way as not to offend members of Parliament, or the Church of England, or the citizens of Great Britain, or the king. John Adams in a fit of frustration finally shouts :

"It's a revolution! We're going to have to offend somebody!"

While I certainly don't think we should all go out and try to offend as many people as possible (I am a Southern gal after all.) I never want the world to become a place where the right not to be offended is upheld to the point we simply stop talking to each other. You cannot offend someone if your hands are over your mouth, but it makes it damned hard to shake a stranger's hand or hug someone who really needs it. 

So, how about it? Are you easily offended? Do you think we have the right not to be offended? Did you find this entire post offensive? Go ahead and say so. It's a free country and I wouldn't have it any other way.   


Amy said...

It's not that I'm easily offended. It's that I choose to not subject myself to it. I cannot look at Facebook without finding something someone has posted that has offended me. These are good people. They are entitled to their opinion. It's my right to disagree or move on. I choose non-engagement.

I choose it because we live in a world where there isn't a great deal of respect for people who disagree with you. It's like we all must believe the same thing. Honestly, how boring would that be?

Art in its truest form should make us think. It should make us squirm, evaluate what we believe. Have the freedom to produce that type of art is what sets America apart from many places in the world.

Art is also subjective. So much of what we've seen in social media, especially in RWA, is a cry for diversity. I'm all for it, but we must embrace all the different views of diversity. If they offend, so be it. Walk away from it. Don't buy the book. But do not take away the right for the artist to write that book. Diversity cannot exist with censorship.

Louisa Cornell said...

Brava, Amy ! I couldn't agree more! We all have the right to walk away. And being shielded from things that offend us is not always a good thing.

Andrea Dalling said...

Sometimes, the problem is that people aren't offended when they should be. They don't recognize that certain tropes have been used historically to marginalize minorities. In that case, a sort of consciousness-raising is necessary, a way of saying, "this is offensive, and here's why." That's not censorship. It's calling people out. It's how we protect minorities from the tyranny of the majority.

Suzanne Johnson said...

Bravo. If I'm going to bitch about how offended I am about something, then I need to do something about it--or shut up and walk away. Life is way too short to get offended about everything I could possibly be offended about. Give yourself a few minutes to feel offended and then let it go, I say!

Ella Quinn - Romance Novelist said...

I'm not easily offended. For example, another person's views will rarely offend me. Unless, that is, they are trying to make me do something I don't agree with. Then it's personal. I agree with you, don't look at it, don't read it, don't listen to it. Put it down, turn it off, walk away. That does not apply to cruelty. Cruelty, in any form, offends me, and even if it is not directed at me, I am liable to intervene. Great post, Louisa!