Uh oh. Now you did it.
You opened your mouth and had an opinion on a controversial topic. Sure, you thought about it first, and you were careful with how you expressed yourself, but still, you stated your thoughts.
And no sooner had the words left your mouth, or your keyboard, than you heard the sirens.
The “Take Offense Police’ are on their way.
And as they slam you against the hood of their Mobile Offense Bus (M.O.B. for short) you know that this is not going to end well; they are going to try to throw you in Thought Jail-that horrible place where prisoners are expected to cower in fear for expressing opinions.
“What have I done?” you cry.
The Take Offense officer in charge looks you square in the eye, indignation and self-righteousness practically oozing from every pore, and says, “What did you do wrong? I’ll tell you what you did wrong…you had an opinion that we disagree with. And now, we are offended.”
And you feel the laughter bubbling up, because, let’s face it–this is funny. After all, this is behavior normally relegated to elementary school playgrounds and people with skin as fragile as rice paper. But you know that laughing will only get you into MORE trouble with the Take Offense Police. So you play it cool. You try to reason.
“Listen, I was only stating my opinion. That doesn’t make me evil, or mean, or lacking in compassion; it’s just my personal thoughts. You have them, too, you know. And I’m not offended if YOU disagree with me.”
The Take Offense Officer calls over her partner.
“Get a load of this; she said she was “only stating her opinion.” Listen, girly, that ain’t gonna fly here. You have to get in line and feel like we do, because we know more and care more than you do. Do you understand me? Am I making myself clear? Independent thinking is NOT allowed. And now I am offended that you didn’t care enough to know that.”
And then, you stand up and face the offended. And as you look at their faces, their wild eyes and flushed skin, chests heaving with anger, you wonder if they are ALL, truly, offended, or if they simply say they are so as not to appear lacking in compassion. Perhaps many in the crowd are too scared to say how they really feel, and who can blame them–nobody wants to be thrown up against the M.O.B.
And as you stand there, you can’t help but marvel how words and thoughts and opinions are only allowed if the Take Offense Police deem them worthy, and how the very people who speak of open-mindedness and freedom of thought and compassion have so very little of it, themselves.
And you feel a bit of sympathy for the Take Offense Police, for it must be exhausting to go around being offended by everything.
And then, something inside you…snaps. That part of you that tries to walk the middle ground and play nice and go out of your way NOT to offend simply breaks into a million little pieces. It breaks under the weight of the realization that NOTHING you say, no matter how gentle or funny or logical or heartfelt will make a difference to these people. For they live inside their own noisy world of bitterness and anger, and that noise renders them unable to listen, much less comprehend, what anyone else is saying.
So, you take a step toward the Take Offense Police and say,
“You’re offended, huh? Well there’s not much I can do about that, except, of course, remain silent and, quite frankly, there’s not a snowball’s chance in hell that’s gonna happen. So as my mom used to say, you better work on getting GLAD in the same skin you got MAD in.”
And as you turn to leave, you hear their heads exploding like little volcanoes of anger and wonder if they even heard you.
And you thank God, once again, for vodka.