Don’t sweat over a sweater

CARLY Carly's PhotoSTUAFFER

Opinion Writer

stauffce@plu.edu

I have a feeling that if there were a contest between all peoples across history for the generation most easily offended by the absurd things, ours would take the cake.

Look no further than recent news for ample proof. Starbucks decided to remove snowflakes from its seasonal Christmas coffee cup, and Target put a new sweater up for sale, which had on its front the words “OCD,” with “Obsessive Christmas Disorder” printed underneath. Uproar thus ensued highly disproportional to its cause.

Because in this culture, it’s not just a paper-cup, and it’s not just a sweater. It’s obvious and undeniable proof that Starbucks hates Christmas and Target hates people with mental illnesses. Grab your pitchforks and torches and get ready to boycott.

Those who are unhappy with these criminal corporations are those who read deeply into the subliminal intentions behind seemingly neutral actions. The doctrine of these offended citizens commands all to be on tip-toe, wary of the myriad messages any simple action could send. We sometimes call this practice “political correctness.” We call it being mindful, inoffensive and nondiscriminatory. I call it ridiculous.

The Target Christmas sweater, for example, is clearly intended to be a silly play on words. It uses the common acronym OCD – for Obsessive Compulsive Disorder – and replaces a word for comic effect. (To the P.C. police unfamiliar with this tactic, it’s supposed to be a “joke.”) I highly doubt it was a well-calculated attack by Target on those who suffer from mental disorders.

It’s just a sweater, folks.

For those who perceive this as an attack, however, or are of the opinion that the ignorant Target ought to be mindful of the negative ways the sweater’s design can be interpreted, I offer some input.

I find it a dangerous practice to embrace over-sensitivity and hunt for the possible undertones of a neutral action. It’s a nice disguise for the belligerent behavior of looking for a fight.  Overwhelming emphasis is placed on all the negative ways in which the action could be interpreted, while one of the greatest components of an action’s rightness – the actual intent of the action – is largely disregarded.

Adopting such behavior has consequences. Everyone becomes a potential offender, as the politically-correct stand ready to attack, dissect and obsess over a single “wrong” word, then shame the culprit who wasn’t even trying to be one. Comrades become enemies. Tension brews between citizens of a politically-correct world, as another uproar could break out any minute. Anyone can become an enemy,even if he lacks malicious intent.

Another cost of political correctness lies in its clash with free speech. First Amendment rights lose their power when one must be wary of attack after they’re exercised. Don’t misinterpret my point here – I am not encouraging bullying or intentionally offensive language. But when a lighthearted Christmas sweater is treated like hate speech, it’s clear that our discrimination detectors are in need of some serious recalibrating.

In addition, our society’s greatest achievements have historically been rooted to a people voicing their opinion. Because of this, it’s extremely dangerous when citizens feel threatened if they speak up. Indeed, this all too easily offended society embodies the quote by Elbert Hubbard: “To avoid criticism, do nothing, say nothing, be nothing.” The grand result, therefore, of a culture obsessed with correctness is a “be nothing” culture.

If, after all those words of wisdom, you are still ticked off by Target and sore over Starbucks, I’m happy to point out that we live in a free-market society in which your money is your vote. No one is forcing you to wear the Target sweater or buy the latte. So, if you don’t like it, don’t buy it. Simple as that. Both you and the businesses can enjoy autonomy. What a win-win situation.

And if you are a member of the P.C. police, I’ll be honest, I hope you retire from the position, bbecause I’m starting to develop the opinion that this culture is nuts. It’s ironic, disturbing and simply nonsensical that this hypersensitive culture is the same one that brought us “Cards Against Humanity,” the shameful “game” that makes such issues as murder, the Holocaust and abortion a laughing matter. Yet, simultaneously existent is a culture priding itself on being “politically correct.” Yep. We’re definitely going wacko.

In the meantime, neither Target nor Starbucks is backing down, and for that I applaud them. If you’re offended by the corporations, so be it. You reserve the right to your own opinion. But I’d advise you to consider cooling your jets and growing a spine. (Members of the invertebrate community, my deepest apologies.)

And if my suggestion insults you, well, this is the United States of America, not George Orwell’s 1984. Not yet, anyway.

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