Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Sticks and Stones: Let's stop being offended, fergawdsakes

America is all a'Twitter (literally) over recent outbursts by singer Kanye West, tennis player Serena Williams and U.S. Rep. Joe Wilson. Throw in the righteous indignation over town-hall protesters by suddenly decorum-obsessed followers of Cindy Sheehan and Al Sharpton and ... well, you've got a massive whine-and-cheese party.

C'mon folks. Was the normally prosaic path of your life significantly (or even slightly) altered by any of these knuckleheaded squawks? Sure, depending on your view, maybe you were entertained or enraged briefly, but really ... did any of them truly matter?

Long ago, media critic Jeff Jarvis spoke words that should resonate with us far more than "hope and change." He said:

"The cardinal sin today is to offend (and) the clearest badge of victimhood is to be offended."

Kanye West did nothing more than extend his brand. He's the quintessential gangsta wannabe who can't control his self-centered urge to blurt out inappropriate blather at exactly the wrong moment. It comes to him more naturally than foreign accents come to Meryl Streep. After making unscripted racist comments about President Bush during a fund-raising commercial, and other awards-show interruptions, should we really be surprised by Kanye West? His comments might have hurt Taylor Swift's feelings, but how did they hurt anyone else but Kanye West?

And, oh boy, let's get our panties wadded over a potty-mouthed tennis player! Ever since John McEnroe and Jimmy Connors -- now both cultural icons -- picked up a racket, it's been the template for professional tennis players. But suddenly we're shocked -- shocked, I say -- that Serena Williams has a ghetto mouth.

Of course, Joe Wilson's is worst of all. He said, "You lie!" during President Obama's speech to Congress (and was correct) but now the House of representatives stops its work on, oh, fixing the economy, health care, terror and everything else to admonish the poor guy who has already apologized to the president. And nobody admonished Democrats for booing President Bush in his 2005 State of the Union speech. If delays in health care reform were so fatal, how many people died while Speaker Nancy Pelosi expressed her outrage that a Republican would shout at a president who was, indeed, lying?

Let's get past our righteous indignation about people mouthing off. Stick and stones and all that. We are not hurt, nor even significantly diminished, by these outbursts. What should be minor blips on the media radar are being played above the fold in papers and looped endlessly on TV and radio. Talk radio is nothing but a series of these inconsequential outbursts (OK, conservatives will say it's patriotism and liberals will say it's Nazi-racist-anarchist-greedy maundering, but to most of us it's simply inconsequential.)

Maybe we should take a page from Facebook's notebook. Wouldn't it be convenient if, when one of these outbursts erupts, instead of getting all panty-wadded, we could just "un-friend" the offender and never have to listen to him/her again? Can you imagine how Kanye's record sales would fall if the USA suddenly un-friended him in one fell swoop? Or how Serena's pay-days would be suddenly thinner if nobody was watching?

If we continue to just float on the erratic stream of pop-culture like idiot leaves, we will simply continue to be offended, which makes us all victims. Screw that (sorry, folks, but that's as offensive as I can muster.)