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Just Because You're Offended...

Life in the "outrage culture" can seem precarious and bellicose. Twitter rants, trolling, media takedowns and fake news, which can stir even the most staid and dispassionate of souls to righteous indignation. I've engaged in some of it myself, more to have an experience than to actually divest someone in cyberspace of their opinions. As I've watched a favorite media personality be thrust into an uncomfortable spotlight, I am left to wonder not if the whole thing is true about her, but if the whole thing is important. 

Am I of the opinion she's being targeted because of her race? Yep. Do I believe she has become a political bulwark in recent years and thus gotten on the radar of some "other side" nutjobs? Sure do. Do I believe she's innocent? No.

And that is my point. Said favorite media personality is just like me and you, imperfect and human, regardless of the lofty rhetoric of her politics. And I especially admire her mind; she's expounded some of the most cogent analysis I've experienced to date. Her problems stem from the fact that over a decade ago, she expressed rather weird opinions that no longer reflect her current mindset. And for this, she's getting dragged. Okay, fine. It makes for good political drama. 

But in this outrage culture, there seems to be a disturbing narrative structure taking shape that seems to rely solely on the tendency for most human beings to be right fighters- "I'm right and you're wrong and here's a 5 point tweet explaining why." So, said media personality is being dragged for her opinions that offended someone else. In short, everyone's losing their mind over their opinions. I was taught, "opinions are like assholes, we all have them and they all stink." Opinions are literally meaningless.

Recently, to take a brain break from my final edits, I've started listening to A Movable Feast. So while I'm doing chores (lots of animals tends to create lots of chores) I get to listen to Hemingway's opinion of GS and ABT. GS was a crusty ol' broad with a mind that cracked like a whip on EH's ideas of sexual orientation. As GS is expounding on the self-loathing of 1920's gay men, how WWI G.I.'s were all lost and EP sucked (my words) nobody was up in arms about her impolitic remarks, then or now. And we won't get into how I couldn't tolerate listening to EH's To Have And Have Not because his liberal use of "n****r" felt like a smack upside my head. Every time. FYI- this does not make me "holier than thou", but simply a product of the times.

So I ask once again, what's changed? How we express stinky bits of meaninglessnes to the world? Blame social media. And not for the reasons one might think. We've always carried around impolitic views along side politic ones, showing one to some and some to all. The hypocrisy of humanity is not a new thing. Yet, people are loathe to be called out on that very thing we all possess. My time in the hot seat will come, and I hope I will meet it with grace and aplomb. (Sidenote: 2 decades in education has inured me of the opinions of others. Just saying.)

What has changed with the advent of social media, is something you may not understand is happening to you right now. You are probably sitting at home (I really don't need to know where), relaxing and reading this. Maybe you picked up my novel and thought I deserved a deeper dive. Or perhaps you've clicked and clicked and clicked your way here. Either way, these words, my words are with you here in this personal space, mere inches from your face. And your heart. And your mind. I am in your head. That's enormously intimate...,with me and all this opining. And that's what's changed. Social media hasn't just brought us closer, or made the world a smaller place, or stripped us of our privacy, but instead it's shoved us all, kicking and screaming, into one room called Cyberspace and told us to work it out for ourselves. Fuck you very much, Mark Zuckerberg.

We are exposing ourselves, in rather intimate ways, to the other 7 billion of us on Planet Earth and them to us. That's over 7 billion stinky opinions flying around at the speed of a click and we're all struggling to cope. Infinite diversity in infinite combinations is not some science fiction ideal, but the name for the social overload we must contend with on a daily basis. The struggle is real.

But even as I lament this end of humanity's childhood, I feel that instead of shrinking away from it, we must lean in. I believe that having to live through, as a civilization, the daily cage fight that is Twitter and Facebook and "the media," we will grow up. We will give up trying to be right: yelling the loudest or beating our chests the hardest in order intimidate others into following along and calling it civilization. Instead, we will be forced to get along in order to survive. As equals. With opinions. Just being ourselves. To be a truly civilized civilization. These are the times that try humans' souls. This is our cultural adolescence.

And while I'm absolutely positive at least one of the 7 billion people on this planet will be offended by my writings, to them I say, "Please remember, just because you're offended, doesn't mean you're right." Live long and prosper. 🖖