Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Political Correctness

Most people I know do not wake up every morning deciding to do something boneheaded like offend other people. I'm sure that somewhere in the world...there are people who actually live for it, but the majority of us are - quite frankly - too busy to sit and plot ways to upset the people that we come into contact with on an average day.

In the South, we vascillate between not stating the obvious because it might offend someone (bless his heart) and saying exactly what we think (using expressions that are sometimes downright hysterical). When I think of the latter, I think of Dixie Carter's character Julia Sugarbaker. I always wanted to be Julia. She was a magnolia until someone messed with one of her friends or family or was just otherwise intolerable. She didn't have to whisper behind anyone's back...she just said it to their face. Gotta love that. (We'll miss you, Dixie. Thanks for the memories.)

But in America today - despite the fact that most of us have a lineage that is more mutt than purebred - we all seem to be mighty touchy about everything. Granted, people feeling the need to sue over everything has made people a bit more paranoid, but as for me...I've pretty much had enough.

I am an overweight, 47 year old white married female. Over the span of my life, I have been overlooked for certain jobs (until they realized that I was serious and wasn't going anywhere), have tolerated a boss who thought that it was perfectly okay to refer to me as "Babe" (I was 22 and it was definitely closer to the truth than it is now) and was once told that I should be at home raising my kids instead of working (by the same boss.) I was also told "you'd be a dang good secretary if you weren't so ambitious" by another.

In a later job, another senior officer showed me the cover of a travel magazine with a girl in a bikini on it six months after Jill was born and kept telling me that I should strive for that. I later had to apologize to this same Philistine for following my boss' instructions to the letter and not helping him with something that I'd specifically been told not to do for anyone. I had not been rude, out of line or even wrong. I had just offended the sensibilities of an egomaniac.

Once I applied for a job that would have required a move, but would have been perceived as a step up and an exciting opportunity for me. A former coworker received that job...even though I had been employed there, had earned the opportunity and was later told straight up that it was because of my gender.

Did I sue the universe? No. I sucked it up and understood that if God had put me there, He would come through for me. And He has. I could have become bitter, angry, or offended. I just saw those people as the morons they were and let it go. Sometimes it took awhile.

So, when I make a comment that is perhaps more direct than need be, I expect other people to understand that they need to "man up" and quit whining. We are becoming the USOA (United States of Offended Americans) and I for one have had my fill of it.

With regard to race or natural origin, I may be perceived as insensitive because I'm white. Frankly, I often forget that. I assume that all people want to do the best for their families and aren't simply looking for someone to give them something that they didn't earn. But lately in America, that seems to be anything but the case. I'll admit that I am an equal opportunity believer in that everyone who can work...needs to be working...or at least trying to work.

I get annoyed when I see perfectly capable people parking in the handicap spaces just because they borrowed MeeMaw's car for a quick trip to WalMart. (As if there is really any such thing as "a quick trip to WalMart.")

I also find that I am sometimes perceived as insensitive because I don't understand the plight of other groups who truly have borne a lot more scorn than I ever have as a woman. But I will say this...I am a lot more likely to understand if things are explained to me sensitively and sensibly instead of cramming it down my throat or putting it in my face. It also might be more effective if the battles were chosen carefully instead of every single solitary time something even remotely reeks of racism or discrimination.

So, a few things that I would like to dispense with (at the risk of offending anyone reading this).

I'd like for people of color (any color) to remember that we are all Americans. We may identify ourselves as "African Americans," "Asian Americans," "Native Americans," or "Italian Americans," but I'd like to just simplify it to...Americans. I can't keep up with the current terms of what each group wishes to be called or the unwritten - but heavily enforced - rules that state that people of one's own race can call you whatever they want...but nobody else can. Why not just eliminate offensive words across the board?

Wouldn't that be more sane?

For people who are tired of the truth that America was founded on Christian-Jewish principles...please either quietly object by not participating in the national holiday of Christmas or observing Yom Kippur, and quit trying to remove every vestige of our history on the grounds that you are offended. If you are that offended, please feel free to move. I'll help you pack.

I could go on and on, but the truth is...we all have a different prism by which we view life. Some people see everything as a personal attack and others realize that life is hard and sometimes people are crazy. I'm probably more of the latter.

Being overweight has not been a bed of roses, though. People view overweight people as lazy and out of control. Where some part of that dynamic certainly is true...it is often a vicious cycle of using food as a drug that lands people in that state. Medication, depression, trauma, and hormones that go haywire are other causes. I have found that people are incredibly judgmental, and I'll admit to getting my feelings hurt by having someone tell me to quit eating something or ask me how my workouts have been going when it was obvious that they were trying to send me the message that I needed more gym time and to put down the caramel cake. Normally, these comments came from people who have the metabolism of an Olympic runner and have never once worried about the numbers on the scale.

So, let's try to be a little less sensitive and a little more understanding of the fact that sometimes people don't mean to be ignorant...they just need to be gently educated. And for those times that they want to act like a horse's behind...unleash your "inner Julia" and pin them to the wall. Just be sure that you chew them a new one...with class.

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