Everyone always focuses on a person who is being offended, their tender feelings, and moving mountains in defending that tender heart. I think it is high time we spend a bit more time on those who offend, what makes them so offensive, and either helping them or, more often, ourselves to change.
Now, I am certainly not advocating for some "anything goes" attitude about something as important as how people live. There are such things as community standards and these need to be honored when we are out in public. It is sad to see some glorified "do-good-er" from a far-away, culturally-denuded place come to an area and immediately begin working diligently (as only "community activists" can) to remove aspects of life that, here it comes, they find offensive.
As an eleven-year-old, I attended a tiny country school in a village called Grady in the arid grasslands of eastern New Mexico. I was not a hunter, nor were my parents or grandparents, but it became obvious to me that everyone else in this area, where my mother's family has lived and worked for four generations, obviously love hunting quite a lot. School was even interrupted during the late fall as the Hunter Safety Course came to town so that all the school children could attend before the beginning of the big deer and elk hunts. This was a ranching and apparently, a hunting village. Although I never participated, I tried to be supportive of the local culture in my own ignorant way. We got along well enough in spite of our cultural differences.
Now, a nice couple moved to Grady from California, attracted by the cheap land, wide open spaces, abundant sunshine, and the cool, starry nights that are punctuated by coyote (a native wild dog) calls that are almost the calling cards of the American Southwest. I suppose all was well until this gentle couple ran up against some local traditional cultural event which offended them: the school-sponsored annual coyote hunt.
You see, in eastern New Mexico and most of the rest of the western US, coyotes are a menace. They chase down and kill livestock upon which ranchers and the economy that surrounds them depend. Every time you eat a hamburger or a steak, it is because a coyote didn't manage to get to that cow first. Since ranchers originally came to this area, killing a coyote has not only been legal year-round (there is no "season" for it as with other species) but has been rewarded by companies that buy the pelts. Supporting the local economy is just that important! In Grady, it is a major annual fund-raising event to kill as many coyotes as you can and bring the carcasses in for payment. At least, that's my understanding of it.
Now I know a bit about California as well; I was born in Los Angeles and raised in Orange County until I was eight-years-old. I knew that beef came magically from some butcher shop and that it was wrong to kill any animal because they are all part of a beautiful "circle of life" upon which humans are evil predators. Or so I was taught by Disneyland that was only five miles from my home. I don't really think I had seen a dead animal, except on TV or as occasional street-kill, until I moved out to live in my mother's homeland on the prairie.
I can imagine that these nice California folks had taken many trips to "the West", slept in some fine B&Bs, watched the long stretches of yellow, brown, and red from their speeding automobile, met the cheery tourist trap operators along the interstate, and fallen in love with dressing in leather clothes, donning turquoise jewelry, and going "native American earth-mama" like Hollywood and popular culture portray. Now that they finally sold their over-valued California home and bought their surprisingly large bit of "retirement" prairie, they get all upset about what it takes to live and work in a real ranching area. Their precious coyote calls are occasionally silenced and, like paying admission to see a horror movie with a deceptive and enticingly romantic trailer, they started complaining loudly and demanding that things change to suit their postcard dreams.
Well, politics being what it is, the school had to pull out of the event it had sponsored for probably almost 100 years, all for offending two Californians who had arrived a few month earlier. Fortunately, a local group of families held the event anyway and just gave the proceeds to the school - the culture has managed to limp forward somehow against the wishes of over-bearing tourists. Although probably angry at getting trumped in their desire to rescue the majestic "Santa-Fe-watercolor" coyote from those satanic ranchers, the "hippies" have come to the village and made their mark in destroying a culture and way of life. I am sure they congratulate themselves often when they write home to their California friends and report how they are "civilizing" the heathen Westerners.
Of course, I don't know that couple at all and can be sure that I paint this situation unfairly, but it highlights the biggest problem I have with the whole concept of "offense": the hideous things offended people force everyone around them to do. If it wasn't so acceptable to be offended, this would be recognized as the most brutal tool of self-righteous behavior!
I am against acts of force categorically. I think much time and discussion should be invested into any decision to force any situation on others, especially if the person wanting force to be applied is new to the scene and not a real contributor to the local culture. Of course, that is what a democratic government is designed to do: inflict the standards of one group on another through force. However, we constantly hear a cacophony of shrill voices chanting that they are offended by one thing or another that other people are saying or doing, and that means something has to stop and has to stop right now. I would even go so far as to call "taking offense" a variant of ethnic-cleansing and race-baiting.
The word "offended" should be excised from our vocabularies. We should punish our children when they use it and we should ignore or (better) shun adults that say such unintelligent and over-emotionalized things. So much wickedness and hemogeny (a terrible evil all its own) is bred by outside influences "tut-tutting" the ways and means that have served a people well for centuries. So many places, livelihoods, and ways-of-life have been eliminated by the far-too-often whined and Disney-esque emotional offense.
So, the next time you go out of your way to placate someone who is being offended, remember Grady and that something that contributed to their life and livelihood has been stolen away from them, just to please the convenient sensibilities of some outsiders. Don't let it happen and don't ever allow yourself to become offended!
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