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PERSONAL OFFENSE: ‘My (—-) Offended You? That’s Awesome, Dude!’

Is there a correct response to someone who makes an insulting comment to describe you and/or your religious beliefs? While there are ways to utilize the Queen’s English to paint a verbal or written portrait to tell the perpetrator to engage in a physically-impossible act, the best response depends on the situation.

Whether the message is verbal, written or illustrated, we try to induce some form of response from our fellow humans, since communication is the act of exchanging emotional or intellectual responses. When communication is used to generate an emotional response, such as laughter or anger, the intended response that the protagonist is looking for is usually more indicative of the nature of that person than the intended recipient(s).

Yes, there are those lifetime members of the Fraternal Order of the Perpetually Offended whose response to almost any provocation – even with the obvious absence of malicious intent – is to play the victim card. When attempting to engage in humorous or sober interaction with a professional victim, there are four subjects that will almost definitely give that person an excuse to throw an intellectual temper tantrum: sports, music, politics, and religion. However, sometimes the professional victim needs nothing more than another individual to express their opinions, even if that offensive intellectual thug was not addressing the offended party.

Before tackling the subject of sports, an explanation of the difference between being offended and being insulted is in order.

People choose to be offended. Being offended happens when a professional victim is exposed to something that he or she chooses to avoid; this is the result of having a tiny comfort zone. An insult however, is either a deliberate attack against another person’s character or beliefs, or it could come in the form of a simple, cruel taunt, such as calling someone a “Chicago Bears fan” – just kidding.

While the range of loyalty for sports teams varies between cheering for “whoever is winning,” and the, uh, “enthusiasm” displayed by English soccer fans, sports should remain that escape from reality which also allows opposing fans the opportunity to interact as casual, good-natured adversaries, not an excuse to harass fans of other teams. Until the early 1980s, I wonder how many Baltimore Colts fans were loyal to “their team,” and expected loyalty from the team’s ownership in return.

Just like sports, music is also an escape. However, that escape is much deeper and more personal. For better or for worse, there are songs that stay fixed in one period in time, while there are other songs that seem to “grow” over time; songs with a meaning that changes as the listener grows and changes. It is this personal attachment to music and/or artists that the low self-esteem crowd perceives as easy prey.

And since music creates such a personal connection with a listener, that connection could reinforce low self-esteem in the form of treating opinion as fact.

Here are my only two rules regarding music:
1. It’s all good, and it’s all tripe. No two people will perceive the same song in the same manner, since we are the product of our own personal knowledge and experiences.
2. Despite what some classic rock radio station slogans claim, true “timeless music” must survive in print form alone. In just over one century, several formats for storing music have been invented: analog, and many variations of digital. It is the written format however, that those other formats depend on, since the electric reproduction of sound is still a young technology.

And the constant changing of technology has proven that no new technological advancement is safe from obsolescence. Plus, a ”timeless” message has to overcome not one, but many generation gaps. Compare the expression of thoughts found in a Civil War-era letter between two people, to a contemporary text message. Which of the two has a better chance of having an artistic level of appreciation several generations from now?

And while we have our own favorite artists and music, there are other people who are offended that we had made those choices.

When I realized that individual musical preferences are offensive to some people, I realized that nobody has to try to offend others; the offended party allows it to happen. This made me realize just how awesome “no-effort offensive behavior” really is. And when it comes to no-effort offensive behavior, nothing pushes the mental panic button within an individual who suffers from Auto-Offensive Disorder quite like another person’s expression of their religious or political beliefs.

Merely mentioning that you are Jewish, Christian, Conservative, or Republican is an open invitation for others with low self-esteem to express their disappointment in you.

As Jews or Christians, believing in God is expressed in acts that are intended to serve Him. People who openly ridicule such belief usually engage in behavior that is intended to serve one’s self; the need to serve one’s self is a symptom of low self-esteem.

When professional victims are projecting their shortcomings onto other people, they will use religion and politics to try and provoke their target to generate an irrational, emotional response that mirrors their own; this is an attempt to vindicate their own irrational reactions when they are somehow offended.

The best examples of ridicule that I had seen in a while are the comments left on Right Wing News’ link on Facebook to a story about a near-death experience by brain surgeon Doctor Eben Alexander.

While many of the comments were insults against anyone who believes in life after death, others tried to equate belief in religion with an anti-science mentality. Of course, any hospital with a religious affiliation renders such an argument useless.

I’d also found the “God v. science” argument humorous, since those folks who believe that the two are mutually exclusive do not realize that scientific discovery requires an open mind to ask questions and accept uncomfortable answers. An open mind is absent in people who resort to name-calling and ridicule in a failed attempt to promote an emotional-based opinion as fact.

If you are a religious person, you’re probably not surprised when your beliefs offend someone. However, if that person tries to play the God v. science card, try responding with “science is a puzzle that God gave us to help us learn and advance both medically and technologically”, and then wait for their response. Of course, mentioning that “having a closed mind about anything unexplainable prohibits scientific discovery” should help him or her reach a new level of offended-ness.

However, anyone who believes in disagreement on an intellectual – not emotional level via civil dialogue is definitely worth talking with. As for those who “pray” – excuse the pun – to be offended, show some compassion and lend a hand. Unfortunately, I cannot guarantee that you won’t end up in a class about sensitivity.



Chuck Gruenwald

Born in Chicago and raised in northwest suburban Cook County, Chuck Gruenwald developed an unfavorable opinion of machine politics quite early in life. In addition to cars, electronics, law enforcement, and politics, Chuck enjoys writing, and is also a horse racing fan. He has recently written op-eds for