This post has taken me a long time to write. Almost two weeks, in fact.
On April 1 - April Fool's Day - I came across this message on the Interwebs:
It's a familiar thought to me. The first Mothers Day after Mom died brought little pings of pain every time I saw an ad or heard a commercial urging me to select the perfect present. It didn't feel insensitive on the part of everyone else in the known universe; it was simply the way the world kept turning. Over time, I (and I believe the rest of my family) found the humor in it. I particularly love the ads that state something along the lines of "It's not too late to find the perfect Mothers Day gift".
Um ... yeah, it is.
It may be human nature to not want to be confronted with those things, but it's pretty narcissistic, from where I sit.
So we should try not to offend. Okay. Let me suggest we remove the words "gay" and "retard" from our vernacular. Honestly, I think those words do more harm to a greater number of people than any April Fools joke. Maybe it's just me, but when you use the word "gay" to mean stupid or ridiculous or even funny, I'm offended. Gay people are offended. It's offensive. And don't even get me started on "retard". We use the term jokingly in my family, but even then, there's a sense of appropriateness to it. My twin brother has cerebral palsy, and in our lifetime the words we use to describe his condition have changed almost as often as I've switched my hairstyle. Handicapped, challenged, disabled, differently abled and yes ... retarded. Personally, I'm not a fan of labels, so I'm happy just to call my brother Michael. But the worlds demands a word, and if there's one thing I can guarantee, it's that whatever word you choose is going to offend someone.
A few days after April 1, I heard this commercial on the radio. It's a Jimmy John's spot (click to open a new window and play it on the YouTubes) where a homeowner calls for "freaky fast" sandwich delivery because he needs help putting out a house fire. He orders several sandwiches, and with each delivery asks the doorbell ringer to grab a bucket. Finally, the fire department arrives (not freaky fast) and asks why the homeowner didn't call them first. "I did," he says.
Well, I think if I were a firefighter (and I am a big fan of firefighters) I might be offended by this. But what really struck a chord with me is wondering if my friends Marsha and Gordon ever heard this commercial. See, years ago, their daughter's family was devastated by a house fire. The fire took the home, and most tragically killed their teenage granddaughter, Jamie. Jamie and her twin sister Jenny were my friends. Jamie had been cast as Liesl in the production of "The Sound of Music" we were rehearsing at the time. It was a horrible occurrence, and I can't imagine their pain at the time. I am certain it remains with them to this day. So, should Jimmy John et al refrain from this type of commercial, because it might offend or hurt someone?
Everything we experience occurs within our personal lens. What is funny to me might be incredibly offensive or even hurtful to you. Granted, I admit to having a truly twisted sense of humor (as evidenced by the blog I once started with my faux-bro, after both our mothers died; we chose to share it with no one for a reason) but even I get offended from time to time.
So what's the answer? I'll be honest; I have no earthly idea, and I'm not sure there is one. Sometimes, we're just going to be offended. To expect the world to revolve around us and consider our feelings is pretty one-sided; every person as an issue (or two, or five) that brings up difficult emotions. That shouldn't mean that we get to tell others what not to do.