Fear of offense leads society backwards

HANOVER, N.H., (U-Wire) — Recently Alpha Chi Alpha fraternity and Delta Delta Delta sorority wanted to have a party with a luau theme at Dartmouth College. Someone was offended, so now it’s off and the Greek houses involved must “make amends to all of us.” I never knew that luaus were a painful part of Hawaiian history. They weren’t when I went there as a little kid. Then they were heavily promoted by the tourism board as an attraction and it was something cool to attend — I had a good time. I could recreate the party, albeit somewhat inaccurately, from memory.
Hawaii is part of America and its history whether we like it or not. We could have a Pearl Harbor event and it would be valid, except Pearl Harbor was a tragedy and it sucked. Luaus, and it may be a regretted decision, were part of the attraction package for American tourists for decades. They became part of our society, a happy one, an import bash, like everything else.
My ancestors came up with Halloween, pre-Lent parties like Mardi Gras, the Christmas tree and all kinds of holiday fun for the world to enjoy.
If you want to talk about a bastardized holiday, Halloween is the party to choose. That was our day of the dead. It was serious stuff. We wore freaky masks to blend with the demons that were out and about. I don’t like and won’t tolerate people exploiting my ancestors’ pagan history for teeth-rotting freebies. Most little kids who go out dress up like pirates and witches, etc., and those teenagers out in black to avoid the cops after vandalism sprees have no idea where the holiday came from — though they are scared of the graveyard, so at least we kept something of the spirit. I’m not actually kidding when I say it was an important day for my ancestors.
I think we should cancel Halloween; it offends me, and in the new climate of “if it offends someone don’t do it,” I get to cancel parties too.
It’s the same school of thought that led my ancestors again to write personal morality into law, so four unrelated women can’t legally live together in our fine state, as that leads to sin and prostitution. This and other fine laws like no gay sex in 20 plus states, no beer past 12 a.m., no more “killer weed,” no sinful living together outside of marriage in about 10 states — these all exist because something offended someone once.
That’s it, no other reason. Gays offend the religious right, so you “sinners” can’t file joint tax returns or those other nice economic perks of marriage. Now if I see more people out in costume this October, I am going to have a conniption, because they likely didn’t clear it with the soon to be formed “Descendants of European Pagans League.” Just wait until I am a senator. Everything will be right in the world, for me anyway, as I’ll legislate your offensiveness out of existence. No Mardi Gras for heathens, no more Christmas trees for anyone but northern Europeans.
There is of course that other school of thought, which says since we are Americans, or more importantly, human beings, that human history is your history and it’s all there for the taking. We trade — everyone gets office Christmas parties, Thanksgiving and even much against my ridiculous wishes, Snickers in late October.
Everyone also gets luaus and every other cool party in the world’s bag. It’s part of the nasty reciprocity issue — everyone likes “our” parties and we like “yours.” No disrespect intended. Maybe someday we can all share the wealth, even if it occasionally means something someone does offends us, and live as generally happy and free people with an amazing communal history as people — not peoples.
Alternatively, we can keep up the self-segregation and try to prevent other people from offending us and our ‘values’ with personal morality laws and social boycotting.
“It offends me, so you can’t do it” has been the rationality for racially segregated water fountains, discrimination against gays; the murders of heretics, dissidents and nonconformists; and every step backward this world has ever taken. When anyone defends this imaginary right not to be offended, they repeat verbatim the line used by tyrants to control and destroy everyone else since the dawn of man, “for the good of us all.”
It makes no difference at all who says it. It doesn’t matter if you think the speaker is a nice person or has the “best interests” at heart. No matter who the person, the “it offends me, so you can’t do it” mentality cannot be ignored or tolerated.
If anyone thinks I am sniping at other “peoples” here, go listen to the “Old Time Gospel Hour” with the reactionary evangelist Jerry Falwell. ‘My people’ if you take it in racial/religious terms are the most egregious and worst example I can think of. However, in spite of all of history, we can, and some of us seem determined to, pursue this trail back into the dark. I can’t say it’s not an option.
Back on the local front, if the Hawaiian kids were offended because other people were going to throw a luau party and mess up the spirit of the event, why not simply offer to join in and help them do it for real? Open it up, meet some kids, hell, maybe learn something new you like. That would have been awesome. Their participation would have made it stronger and we would all have benefitted. Instead, chalk another one up for the self-segregationists and the closing of doors in the name of the offended. Falwell and all the wrong people will be pleased.
Chris Relyea’s column originally appeared in Tuesday’s Dartmouth College paper, The Dartmouth.