I got a very angry email yesterday from one of my readers who was offended that I was poking fun of southerners for not being used to the snow.
I couldn’t believe what this person wrote to me. These are the types of emails you write to people who you really dislike.
It reminded me of when I was writing more actively on Sober Nation, the comments I would get from people were terrible.
People would say things like…
“Once a junky, always a junky.”
“It would have been better if the overdose killed you.”
“Drug addicts are weak people, why should I spend my tax dollars to help people who don’t even want to help themselves?”
You must remember, this was 9 years ago. Social media was much different then. I remember reading these comments being shocked that people were so willing to be outraged and would say things online that they would never say to my face.
As I read this email yesterday, I immediately thought of Professor Galloway’s recent podcast episode about humor. It could be the case that humor is off limits for us now. It’s not possible to not offend someone.
Since nuance is no longer accepted, let me take this moment to clarity what I meant. Here’s a direct quote.
“Jules and I have been enjoying making fun of the people who bought huge pick-up trucks but still get stuck in the snow pulling out of Home Depot parking lot across the street from our house.”
Is that easier to stomach?
Rihanna’s Topless Picture
Yesterday, Rihanna took endless backlash for posting a topless picture in which she was wearing jewelry that featured the Hindu God, Lord Genesha.
And here is just a tiny fraction of all the hate.
I’m not sure how to react to these things. It’s complicated. Here’s why.
1. We must be sensitive to cultures and truth - We have recently seen how harmful it can be when powerful people spew out endless lies on social media. As a culture, there needs to be accountability to our actions. Actions have consequences.
2. We have the right to voice our opinions - If someone does something you don’t like, you have every right to tell them. Just like you have every right to not give an organization your money if you don’t agree with their principles. This is part of the American way.
3. We live in a global society - Cultures are colliding. No matter what we do, there is no way that anyone can have an opinion that won’t somehow conflict with someone else’s morals. Statistically, it’s just not possible.
In defense of the people who are upset at Rihanna, it very well may be the case that it is offensive to put Lord Ganesha over a women’s naked body. Personally, I don’t understand it, but I can accept it as true.
So then what about the millions (literally millions) of tattoos that people have of Lord Ganesha. Does that count? Does that offend someone’s religion? I’m sure it does.
Personally, I have my entire arm tattooed in Hindu gods. I think the stories in the religion are beautiful. I have Lord Shiva holding a conch shell and a Samsara coming out of it. Below that I have Lord Brahma, the creator God. And on my forearm I have Vishnu, the great balancing God, whose role is to return to the earth in troubled times and restore the balance of good and evil.
Is it offensive for me to have these tattoos? My Indian / Hindi friends love them. I don’t want to make anyone upset. That’s not my intention.
People Have the Right Not to Care
If we are going to agree on freedom of speech, that means that people have to accept that you have the right to be offended.
But part of that agreement is that you need to accept that people also have the right to not care about how you feel.
Most importantly, we should understand that every time we rage tweet or post “I’m offended” on social media, we’re not actually solving anything. All we’re doing is providing the other side (whatever that means) with a shovel to dig in. This only furthers the endless divide that social media is creating.
This is complicated. I don’t have all the answers. I know for certain that I will get a few replies to this email from people who are mad at me.
I try to look at every situation from the lens of harm.
“Is this post or opinion dangerous, or is it scary?”
Does this post have the potential to hurt someone, or is it simply making me uncomfortable? I think if we all had the self awareness to judge how we feel on a gauge of fear, we would all be much more present and content.
99% of the time, being offended is just another term for being fearful.