Columbia Star

It’s not a criticism, it’s an observation.

Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words...


 

 

Mike Cox
MWC423@bellsouth.net

I would hate to be a public figure these days, especially a politician. Americans have become so sensitive, no one can say anything anymore without offending someone.

Last week, the governor of Massachusetts referred to the notoriously expensive and trouble- plagued road project nicknamed the Big Dig, as a tar baby. Webster’s dictionary and all reasonable people know a tar baby is something nearly impossible to get detached from.

To Boston attention seekers and minority politicians, tar baby is an opportunity to become outraged on television and pick up some support. Governor Romney was smart enough to stay quiet after his initial remark and let the turmoil die down. If Jesse Jackson or Al Sharpton get involved, he’s doomed.

When I was a child, we were taught that sticks and stones may break bones, but words were harmless. Today, saying the wrong thing, even if unintentional, is far worse than breaking someone’s bones.

We give murderers the benefit of the doubt and praise them when they turn their life around. People guilty of being insensitive are permanently branded and never get the opportunity to start over. Ask Ben Wright, Trent Lott, or John Rocker.

What is more confusing is how interpretation seems to be more important than the actual words or intent of the words. A phrase can be benign to both the speaker and the recipient, but others can determine the phrase was possibly demeaning, degrading, or improper, and soon someone is defending his entire life.

White males are usually the ones accused of saying stupid stuff, but that may be changing. Provincetown is about to go through sensitivity training because the predominately gay population has allowed their frustration over the same sex marriage issue to bubble over into harassment of the heterosexual tourists who visit.

Several complaints have been filed with authorities over incidents where people pushing strollers and carrying children have been called breeders . Evidently this is not only disparaging, but qualifies as hate mongering.

I wasn’t the best student in biology, but didn’t we all get here the same way? And how does a catty remark by a frustrated sculptor in a flannel shirt qualify as hate speech? What is happening to us?

Back when men made the rules, rude comments were either ignored, critiqued, laughed at, or answered with a punch in the nose. Everybody knew where they stood. Now, anyone with a motive grabs a television camera and becomes offended.

A basketball team in Buffalo recently decided to name their team the Silverbacks, after the respected leader of a group of gorillas. Local activists have tied the gorilla to racism and want the name changed.

The African-American player who came up with the name is an Animal Planet devotee and sees a symbol of respect rather than racism. He says the name is consistent with the team’s mission and calls the complaints ridiculous. He thinks there are bigger issues than tying an innocent name to racism. I guess he doesn’t understand how things work.



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