In this society of ours, it seems that little has more importance than protecting everyone around us from hurt feelings. This imperative can be seen everywhere you look.
Since it "Tis The Season," lets start with "Happy Holidays." Between Halloween and Marti Gras there are an awful lot of holidays. Pretty much any excuse to get together with family and friends is good enough for me. But what is with "Happy Holidays?"
Being a Christian, in proximity to the Winter Solstice, I celebrate Christmas. This was the date assigned to the celebration of the Birth of Jesus (since birth and death dates were not routinely kept) to displace one of the largest religious celebrations among non Christians. The idea was literally to displace the rebirth of the sun god with the birth of the Son of God. As we near this date, I wish my friends, even strangers, Merry Christmas!
Why not Merry Christmas? I have heard people say that it is rude and may offend non Christians. I have never been offended by being wished a Happy Chanukah. Why should I be? Even though I am not Jewish, why can't I happily accept well wishes for their holiday? Why should non Christians be offended by being wished a Merry Christmas? I say, if you believe in something, if it is important to you, stand by it.
Another huge example is virtually anything to do with children. In some sports competitions it is not permitted to keep score hoping that the feelings of the losing kids won't be hurt. Grade cards are not permitted to say a child is failing a subject. Some places don't permit teachers to grade with red ink. How ridiculous! In only a short time, pink, purple, or green ink can "hurt" feelings as much as red. Taking away hurt takes away the potential to develop character and encourages the development of a belief that "my" emotional comfort is of paramount importance; a form of narcissism. In my life, I have learned far more from my failures than from my successes.
Sensitivity is all over every news broadcast. You dare not challenge that "this year consumer spending for holiday gifts will be down." That would offend struggling families. Virtually every year since I started paying attention to the news (the late 1970s) I have been told that consumer spending on holiday gifts would be less this year than the previous year. At this rate, we should be approaching zero.
Everyone will hate you if you are insensitive to another annual holiday story; hunger. Did you know that one person in six are hungry? How insensitive would it be to hear this news and wonder about caring neighbors, extended families, food stamps, WIC, emergency food pantries, church programs, charities, corporate programs, etc.? Who would not be incredibly offended by people who try to connect the dots between this epidemic of hunger with the epidemic of obesity. (Please don't hurt MY feelings by observing that I am obese; it's a disability. It could not possibly be that I enjoy eating and generally avoid exercise.)
My mother insisted that if I did not have something nice to day, I should say nothing at all. In her efforts to turn a son into a gentleman, she was quite correct. But does that mean that I have to ignore objective truth, or at least refrain from saying it out loud, because someone may be offended?
We are taught that free speech is one of the values held most dear by Americans. At least it is one of the four things protected in the First Amendment to the Constitution. If I hold this freedom dear, isn't it incumbent upon me to have a thick skin and be tolerant of other points of view. If the Pope does not agree with everything said or done by the previous Pope, surely there will be differences of opinion between the rest of us. I believe that it is wrong to self censor, withhold speech, because someone may be offended.
MERRY CHRISTMAS to you one and all!