Our founding fathers had the wisdom to craft freedoms into our Constitution that Americans have long treasured.
But how far do Americans today cherish their freedoms, such as freedom of the press? Apparently some feel it should go only so far. Once an idea expressed in print becomes offensive to some they are ready to abandon your rights at self-expression. No longer do some share in the sentiment of Evelyn Beatrice Hall: "I disapprove of what you say, but I will defend to the death your right to say it."
It's hard to ignore that some in American society have grown such thin-skinned that they become offended at the drop of a hat toward people expressing opinions that differ from their own. When Frank Aquila was allowed last week to speak his point of view about the homosexual agenda indoctrinating American youth, some readers became unhinged. Instead of accepting that homosexuality is a controversial topic even today and that a vast number of Americans are opposed to same-sex marriage, they went on a "how dare you!" rampage.
Mr. Aquila expressed a variety of traditional opinions, among them his opposition to teaching young children about homosexuality. He also cited the Judeo-Christian beliefs against homosexual practices. These were - and are - views commonly held in America.
One reader sent Mr. Aquila this email: "I am so disgusted with your piece. You are a disgusting misguided bigot. F-off a-----."
A gentleman from a legal firm called me personally to express his displeasure and tried shaming me for allowing such traditional views to be expressed in print. I thanked him for his thoughts but terminated the call when he expressed how "f-----g mad" he was at me.
A female called Friday to not only express how upset she was but tried to bait me into an argument about my views on the matter.
A reader comment posted on our online edition reads: "Wow! This guy (Aquila) is a piece of work! I cannot believe that an actual newspaper would allow this to be printed on its pages. All I can say is take this opinion with a grain of sand. After all ... he wrote a book about Sarah Palin for Christ sake!! Anyone who idolizes her is bound to be lacking in mental fortitude!! My next call is going to be to the editor of the Ceres Courier to report my absolute offense at this article, I hope that the rest of you do the same, although judging from the lack of comments I am not sure there are more than 2 or 3 people who even give a rip about this paper anymore! Cant say I'll be sad if it fades into oblivion!! OUT!!"
A follow-up post read: "This article just makes stupid people dumber!!!"
Another wrote: "This dood (sic) is a f----t."
Such viciousness is disheartening. I can respect and understand someone disagreeing and responding with reasons why they disagreed with the column writer. It's annoying that the response is reduced to profanity, name-calling, insults, hopes for this paper's demise and the baseless recitation of media leftists that somehow conservative Sarah Palin is a dimwit when that is hardly the case or even relevant to the conversation.
But sadly that's where things are in America: Huff and puff and remain in a constant state of being offended and respond by vilifying those with whom you disagree.
So if readers disagree with Mr. Aquila, why can't they be gracious enough to go through his points and explain WHY they disagree rather than be content with hurling insults? Then leave well even alone. The end result should not be to force the masses to believe in something that they fundamentally and religiously cannot accept. (Expect a life of unhappiness if your happiness depends on everyone agreeing with you).
Each time I watch TV news or listen to talk radio or read the paper I am made aware of people who are offended at something (such as the gays upset at Chic-fil-A for supporting traditional marriage). Society is being forced into this "turn or burn" political correctness that is met with viciousness and vitriol for not falling into the politically correct party line.
The latest example of someone locally taking offense was last week's KOVR-TV story on Corina Fezi, a parent of a student at Empire's Capistrano Head Start program who was "offended" when a four-year-old - mind you - said to her, "You're big." Instead of taking that as a cue that she might do something about her weight, Fezi (who is rather obese) went to school officials and complained about the child's remark and wanted them to speak to the girl's parents. A resource teacher told Fezi that kids often speak things "the way they see them." (Who among us has not been the subject of a hurtful comment at a school or hazed?) But it is wrong for the incident to be played as an act of "bullying" and less of a "frank comment."
A question for Mrs. Fezi: If you know you're morbidly obese wouldn't you expect to hear an occasion brutally honesty comment spilling forth from a child's lips? While kids should be taught to be more discerning, wouldn't hurtful remarks encourage one to take charge and do something about the excessive weight instead of playing victim by going to KOVR-TV to make a bigger issue out of you being offended?
Too many seem to enjoy being offended. The "Meant to be Happy" website -- which challenges people to "Live with purpose," "Think with clarity," "Act with character," and "Grow with courage" -- has a lot to say about being offended and starts off with a quote of Abraham Lincoln: ""We should be too big to take offense and too noble to give it."
The first tip they offer: #1: "Talk yourself out of being offended." The website says: "Tell yourself the person who is the potential ‘offender' has as much right to his opinion as you do to yours. Besides, they're only words. What can words do?"
The second tip of "put yourself in the offender's shoes," suggests "just maybe, you will see that you too played a role in the drama."
How about point #3, which is "assume a benevolent motive." (Like considering that Mr. Aquila only wants to see America's school children raised without unnecessary exposure to adult issues and not be exposed to a left-leaning viewpoint that tends to elevates homosexuality at the expense of heterosexuality.)
Tip #4: "practice detachment." This is insightful: "When identities are too closely tied to one's opinions, and those opinions are then disagreed with, many feel like they, themselves, have been rejected, the core of who they are have been shoved away, pushed to a corner and crushed. This, of course, hurts, but is highly inaccurate."
I especially applaud tip #6, which is "love truth more than being right." The website notes: "If the truth, whoever possesses it, is more valued than the perception that you are the one who knew it first, then opposition to your thoughts and beliefs will be inoffensive no matter how offensive the other person is trying to be. You are not emotionally attached to your position. You only hunger after truth. So opposition to your point of view offers no grounds for offense. You simply want to know the truth, even if you are never the place it originates."
Let's treat each other with respect. But treating people with respect does not mean we roll over and never express our views in a free society. It means let people express their views without being so quick to be offended all the time.
How do you feel? Let Jeff know at firstname.lastname@example.org