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In Praise of Insensitivity

My daughter came home from school last week with a collection of artwork she had completed during the early part of the Christmas, I mean, “holiday” season.

The collection—done in the usual media, Crayola, water color and construction paper, of second grade—was pretty typical, Christmas trees, candy canes, wreaths, presents…

And a detailed rendering of a menorah.

A menorah. Hmm….we’re not Jewish, and our kids don’t go to a Jewish school. In fact, they attend a public school that’s fairly politically correct, although certainly not to the degree of those that routinely make the headlines each “holiday season.”

I guess the correct, contemporary reaction to this would have been to be offended—or at least make such a claim—and then rage, loudly and publicly about being hurt, being excluded, yammering about separation of Church and State, contacting the ACLU, etc. Talk about power, by raising enough of a stink I could have probably gotten some sort of apology from the school district, perhaps a check (to a disturbingly large and growing number of people, that’s what it all comes down to these days…getting a check). At the very least, I could’ve probably been granted the privilege of selecting my daughter’s teacher for next year.

After all, there’s great power in being offended. Construct any case for being offended on any grounds related to race, gender, ethnicity, sexual orientation, height, weight, hair color, religion (well, except for any form of Christian) now matter how convoluted, get an attorney, go to court or threaten to, and the world will beat a path to your door…like three kings, bearing gifts of overwrought apologies, promises of sensitivity training programs, and of course cash.  The argument need not make sense, and its validity is secondary to someone having the nerve enough to advance it.

Think about it. Oppose the legalization of gay marriage and supporters of the idea of twisting the basic meaning and definition of what constitutes a marriage will be offended, and claim you hate gays. Your opposition is nearly a form of the much-dreaded “hate speech.”

Observe a holiday that is observed by about 95% of Americans and the 5% who do not observe it, for reasons involving religion, lack of religion or sheer contrariness, and you’ll be accused of being insensitive.

Try to encourage Spanish-speaking grade-schoolers to learn English, the most valuable tool any immigrant—legal or otherwise—can have in seeking success in this country, and you’ll be accused of being insensitive, and not caring about the native culture of these kids.

Well, don’t worry about this American. Tell my daughter—we’re Catholic—about Hanukah and the significance of the menorah, have her make a drawing of said menorah, and I’ll applaud it. As I see it, we probably should have taught her something about the Jewish faith. Let the NHL team from Vancouver come to town and while I may or may not go to see them play, I certainly won’t be out in front of the Savvis Center carrying a sign protesting the name “Canucks.” That name is a term applied to French-Canadians, a term many of those French-Canadians view with the same revulsion that black Americans have for the “n word.” And I have every right to be offended, as my mother’s side of the family is packed with French-Canadians.

And let’s hear it for Condoleezza Rice, who after being called an “Aunt Jemima” by a nitwit DJ in Wisconsin had no reaction, and expressed no offense. Hats off to Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas who to date has not taken offense to Harry Reid’s condemnation of the judicial opinions which Thomas has written. Reid called them “poorly written” and “embarrassing.” Thomas had no reaction. And let’s have a round of applause for George W. Bush, who still has not taken offense to then-presidential candidate John Kerry’s reaction to late campaign polls showing Bush in the lead. A frustrated Kerry whined to his campaign staff “How can I be losing to this idiot?” Here’s two sets of cheers for Secretary of State Colin Powell who failed to take offense when that racist DJ in Wisconsin called him an “Uncle Tom” and who reacted to UN accusations that the U.S. is “stingy” with aid to victims of the tsunami (wait, they’re not “victims,” they’re “people living with the effects of a tsunami”), with a mere and accurate “The United States is not stingy.”

Perhaps the most interesting aspect of the offense/sensitivity game is that those who seem to be in a perpetual state of being offended are constantly distraught. Those who let “offensive statements” or actions roll off their backs seem to be at peace with themselves. Or at the very least, they’re stable enough to focus on dealing with the important matters at hand.

Of course, no offense intended.

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