Congratulations, America. It's Official: Everything is Racist and Sexist and Nothing Means Anything Anymore.
I’ve never been more convinced that we are truly living in one of the most thin-skinned, politically-correct, easily offended, quickly triggered, hyper sensitive, eternally outraged societies in the entire history of the known world. Somehow over the last few years, we’ve managed to excel phenomenally at turning everything into a potentially offensive controversy. It really doesn’t matter what the thing was. It doesn’t matter what the person said. It doesn’t matter what action was taken. It doesn’t even matter what the context or history was. All that matters is that someone found it offensive and now we all have to stop, recognize the offense and demand a public apology or write a new law. And the sad thing is that we’re not only really good at this, but we seem to revel in it. No one enjoys having complete mental and emotional breakdowns over the most asinine and utterly absurd things than we do.
I suspect that the rest of the world is laughing hysterically at us as we go running to our safe spaces, seeking shelter from really traumatizing things like opposing viewpoints, body wash commercials and Dr. Seuss children’s books.
As a writer, blogger and church media guy who spends a lot of time watching national and local news — and even more time on Facebook and Twitter — I find it amazing how quickly and dexterously our culture moves from one offense cycle to the next, oftentimes juggling 10 or 12 faux atrocities at once. We’re the ninjas of being offended. And then at other times, we’re like the stupid circus clown on the unicycle who can’t shuffle all the bowling pins from one hand to the other and sooner or later you know that he’s going to fall face-first into the dirt. It’s coming. It’s just a matter of when. I fear the the same is true of our society these days. But, somehow we always manage to maintain this state of eternal offendedness. It’s quite a bewildering and baffling sight to behold.
Anyway, you might have realized that yesterday was Columbus Day — er, I mean “Indigenous Peoples’ Day” — the one day of the year on which we’ve always observed the contributions of famed historical Italian explorer and navigator Christopher Columbus, who [accidentally] discovered the land mass that subsequently set in motion the events that would lead to the discovery of what is now, sort of, modern-day America. So, in belated celebration of this day, I hereby decree from my lofty throne of white privilege that we should all read the full text of the poem “1492.”
“In fourteen hundred ninety-two
My God. I’m shaking. Where’s my safe space when I need it? I’m not actually sure what sort of bigot wrote this horrifying monstrosity, but how dare he use a deeply racial slur like “Indians” when he could have just as easily worked the term Indigenous People in there. I mean, I minored in English Literature back in college and I’m at least 90 percent certain that he could’ve done this while still maintaining the overall integrity of the couplets and quatrains within the poem structure. Sad!
Of course, I’m kidding. But, you know who’s not kidding? The idiots who are actually working to change Columbus Day to Indigenous Peoples’ Day or see it abolished as a national holiday altogether. These people are for real. They really do exist. In fact, the city of Los Angeles has already voted to establish Indigenous Peoples’ Day as the official holiday. And why? Because Christopher Columbus was “oppressive.” Never mind that he was a brilliant helmsman and sailor who opened up the world for exploration, trade and global travel. Never mind that present day America wouldn’t even exist without his voyages. That’s not what we’re meant to focus on. The only thing that matters is that he killed some local natives along the way (in the 1400s) and that he established slave labor on Hispaniola (modern day Haiti and the Dominican Republic.) This is apparently justification enough for modifying and ignoring history and completely changing the name of the holiday, or so we should think.
No. It’s actually sheer lunacy. Yes, he did do both of these things. But, let’s remember that slavery was still quite common during this time in world history. That certainly doesn’t excuse Chris’s actions, but it does mean that he was simply a man of his time. Also, Columbus managed to free some of the Indian captives taken hostage by the local Carib tribe, a group of bloodthirsty savages who were known for brutally dismembering and eating their prisoners. One story even recounts a tale of Columbus freeing a small boy from such a ghastly fate.
So, despite what your bearded liberal professor or hipster social activist coworker at Taco Bell might tell you, there’s nothing inherently evil about Columbus or his holiday. He made several incredible, awesome, treacherous voyages across the Atlantic Ocean, discovering, rediscovering and exploring a New World, opening up the doors for western civilization, the spread of Christianity, etc. You didn’t do that. I didn’t do that. Your skinny jeans-clad Gender Studies professor at U.C. Berkeley didn’t do that. And this is why we gave old Chris his own special day on the U.S. calendar. You don’t have to like that. You don’t have to agree with that. But, as you sit in Starbuck’s sipping your perfectly steamed double espresso caramel macchiato while playing Angry Birds on your iPhone, you should at least be conscious of the fact that you’re living in a free and prosperous land which exists largely in part because of his early contributions. There’s simply no denying it.
And the pitiful truth is that, whether it’s the history of Christopher Columbus or a movie star saying “Turn up the volume” or Carolina Panthers quarterback Cam Newton commenting on the strangeness of a female reporter’s knowledge of passing routes, it’s always a personal choice to be offended. The latter story exploded in the news and across social media last Thursday. Maybe you heard about it. Newton was responding to a question from Charlotte Observer reporter Jourdan Rodrigue and he said, “It’s funny to hear a female talk about routes.”
Of course, Cam was instantly labeled as sexist — because everything is sexist, remember? — and was forced to quickly apologize in an official video, saying, “After careful thought, I understand that my word choice was extremely degrading and disrespectful to women. And to be honest, that was not my intention. If you are a person who took offense to what I said, I sincerely apologize.”
This is pathetic. Can we all just take a minute to acknowledge how insanely ridiculous it is that our society has become so thin-skinned that a man cannot make a simple observation about the truthful reality that it is, in fact, a little weird to hear a woman speak professionally and knowledgeably about something like football passing routes? He never said it was a bad thing. He didn’t degrade her. He didn't make fun of her as a person. He didn’t insult her in any way. He was just observing the oddity of her question — as equally odd as it would’ve been if Cam were to make a highly knowledgable comment about the brandname and color of Rodrigue’s shoes and how they matched her outfit well and complimented the color of her eyes or the shade of her lipgloss or something. That would just be odd. It’s not something you hear your average, masculine male talk about on an every day basis.
It doesn’t mean Cam is sexist. He just made an observation and he happened to make it out loud into a microphone while cameras were rolling. But, then the world gasped, everyone got offended and he had to apologize. I think we’ve officially passed the point of absurdity.
No one can force you to be offended. It really is your own fault if you’re offended all the time. Also, it’s probably a good sign that you’re bored and should start looking for some personal hobbies or social interaction with other human beings. Or better yet, do us all a favor and just move to your own planet and start a separate colony for folks who enjoy being offended. Thanks.
You see, the problem with constantly labeling the most inane and inconsequential things as racist, sexist and bigoted is that, eventually, everything will have those labels. And once that's happened, those words won't mean anything anymore. Because, at that point, the things that should truly be racist or sexist will be on the same level as the inane and inconsequential things. Cam Newton's comment about women and football would have to be placed on the same level as truly sexist things like sexual harrasment and rape.
And then nothing will mean anything and everything will just be stupid. Sadly, we're already nearing that point if you ask me.