My wife and I went to a dinner party the other day. Being at an organic farm, I was not surprised to see all sorts of healthy, vegetarian, and even vegan dishes. It was good food — I enjoyed all that I sampled, impartial towards these or the meat bearing selections. Afterward, my wife expressed that she was taken aback, describing the get-together as “hosting a famine”. Only then did I realize that in regards to food, people spent more time talking about what WASN’T in the food than what was. Someone even cornered and pressed my wife over the seriousness of the potential presence of sugar in her home-made salsa.
Hold that thought for a moment as I digress to the subject of the politically correct. People who know me know that I never purposely offend anyone, and exert good-faith efforts to not make anyone feel uncomfortable by anything I might say. But the acceptability of a word as simple as “Black” seems to be an ever shifting mirage. Can the word “Gay” be inclusive of females or only males, or will a certain inflection in my voice unintentionally convert the word from well-meaning and conversational to one of ridicule? Will saying “Merry Christmas” rub the tollbooth worker the wrong way, or will she get in trouble for answering me back in like kind?
Most of us agree that it’s all right to be vegetarian, or ethnic, or religious, or secular, or have a certain lifestyle. But at what point does it become something else, crossing the line of (un)acceptance in the other direction? At what point did we go from deference to imposition, where our food choices or lack of participation in a certain faith becomes a means of control over how everyone else treats us — or even acts publicly themselves? When did we start extending the right to not be offended from intentional slights to the very existence of people different from us being visible or vocal?
Imagine a law that would require all restaurants to have sugar-free, gluten-free vegan entrées. Ridiculous? Imagine a law that would require low-calorie and healthier choices for fast food restaurants. Imagine a law requiring excessive dietary information posted everywhere on all products and menus for fear someone else’s digestive phobia will be triggered. Imagine a tax on sugary drinks or a ban on trans fats. Imagine a ban on all smoking in all areas of all restaurants. This is what would once have been Brave New World style fiction, and every little incremental ordinance supposedly could never have led to this being our world. And yet today, it is.
But I don’t blame government. Our laws have become a reflection of our own pathos. Instead of being an inclusive society, we are pushing to exclude everyone, especially those labeled “the majority” and vilified as oppressors who must now pay for their crimes, simply for being White, Male, Christian. Ironically, it is non-minority liberals playing the guilt card against their own kind, keeping the open wound of past prejudices from healing and then look down upon the result suprised — an infection of outspoken resentment against the various (often self-declared and defined) minorities that otherwise there would be no intolerance toward.
We all want to be minorities with our special rights and treatment, even if it means eating nothing but nuts and twigs. Even being poor has become a proud (and self-fulfillingly permanent) entitlement, a noble cause against those who have more success or material wealth than ourselves.
This isn’t about diabetes or allergies. Randomly surfing the web years ago, I came across a support group for anorexia. But it wasn’t what you think. They were FOR the “lifestyle” of anorexia. They were proud of the control they hand over their bodies to refuse food. The rest of us — those who eat when we want or when we need to — are “addicted” to food. I guess if I can’t hold my breath, I am “addicted” to air as well. A woman I know who trained in yoga was taught that men are “addicted” to orgasms. As a man, I’m not sure how to answer that charge without being politically incorrect.
This defining of others as flawed is an obvious projection of the real issue — a self-righteous fanaticism that demands others accommodate them. It doesn’t matter if it’s a puerile cry for attention from either too much self-esteem or filling in a deficit of such. That is something they need to work out, but the rest of us suffer the consequences. Acknowledgment is no longer enough for some of these people; they require society to conform. That is where the line is crossed.
Yes, these are extreme dramatizations of legitimate personal choices, but so are our times. We may or may not choose to be “politically correct” but everywhere we turn we see this tiptoeing on the precipice of social madness. Do we rebel against such manipulations of being offended and risk being bigots, or do we call out those who are the heart of the problem, those feigning offense?
We must draw the line: No longer accept that the offended are always victims and society is by default “insensitive”. Call manipulation what it is, and speak up, on every account we run into this. It is every one’s responsibility to get along, to wear the long pants. To be truly tolerant, we cannot tolerate others at our windmills from their own lifestyle persecution complex that, frankly and rightly, ought to offend us all.