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Allow Me to Offend You

Check the temperature in Hades. I am about to give praise to the Washington Post for its defense of free speech. Actually, the kudos go to Marc Fisher for his column in this morning’s paper. It seems that a University of Maryland student, Mia Lazarus, went into a campus convenience store to purchase a quick snack, but the clerk would not serve her because Lazarus was wearing a pro-Israel T-shirt and the clerk found that offensive.

Mia Lazarus put her chips and juice down on the counter and prepared to pay. But in the midst of the lunchtime rush, the cashier's eyes wandered to Lazarus's T-shirt, which expressed a political message that proved to be overwhelming for the clerk.

One glance at the words "Baltimore Zionist District" on Lazarus's "I Stand for Israel" T-shirt, and the cashier at the Maryland Food Collective, a crunchy grocery and sandwich shop in the student union on the University of Maryland's College Park campus, blurted: "Your shirt offends me. I won't ring you up." The cashier told Lazarus she could go to the back of the store to find another clerk.

What is so sad, is that our education system has done such a good job at indoctrinating our youth in the ideology of political correctness that neither the clerk nor Mia Lazarus could understand this incident as discrimination.

The collective's policy statement said it "respects the right of an individual worker or volunteer to remove themselves from the work environment and to choose not to act as an agent of the store."

In the law, this is known as discrimination. But a good many college students don't see it that way. Amazingly, virtually everyone involved on both sides of this incident is perfectly pleased with the new policy.

Lazarus, a junior from Baltimore, says she was angry and hurt when she was turned away, but she soon decided that the co-op's policy was a reasonable way to prevent anyone from being hurt. "If someone's offended," she said, "I'd rather have a conversation with them about it, but if they feel uncomfortable and just want to take themselves out of the situation, I really don't mind. It's not like the store's not serving me; it's just the individual. It's no different from when a cashier slips away to go to the bathroom."

How on earth did we manage to convince an entire generation that there is an inalienable right to not be offended? How did they learn that silencing ideas is less objectionable than a disagreement of ideas? Why do they think a disagreement of ideas is offensive?

You have your truth and I have my truth and we will respect each other’s “truths” so we will not speak of our differences because I don’t want to hurt your feelings. I won’t say anything controversial because what is most important is that we all get along.

This is the fruit of moral relativism—the evil of which Pope Benedict XVI spoke in his first speech as Pope. Sometimes we are called to shake things up. We are called to proclaim the one Truth.

So if anyone declares himself for me in the presence of hman beings, I will declare myself for him in the presence of my Father in heaven. But the one who disowns me in the presence of human beings, I will disown in the presence of my Father in heaven.

Do not suppose that I have come to bring peace to the earth: it is not peace I have come to bring, but a sword. For I have come to set son against father, daughter against mother, daughter-in-law against mother-in-law; a person’s enemies will be the members of his own household. (Mt. 10:32-36)

In addition to threatening the constitutional principle of free speech, this unwillingness to offend is un-Christian. Maybe that is why so many in our politically correct, live-and-let-live society find Christianity offensive.


Jennifer F. said…
How on earth did we manage to convince an entire generation that there is an inalienable right to not be offended?

I love this quote.

What's even more frustrating is that young people are really afraid of offending certain groups more than others. E.g. if a pro-life cashier refused to serve someone who had on a pro-abortion t-shirt, I don't think the average young person's take would be that they're sorry that the cashier was offended. I think they would just say the cashier was wrong or (gasp!) close-minded.
Michelle said…
Of course, this doesn't apply to pharmacists who are evil people for trying to not dispense Plan B contraceptives.
Jay Anderson said…

Your example of the pharmacist was the first thing that occurred to me, as well.

I guess there's an "inalienable right to not be offended" so long as the "offensive" speech or conduct is deemed politically incorrect (like support for Israel). But you apparently don't have the "right" not to be offended by sacrosanct things like abortion and birth control.
Catholic Mom said…
I do think there is a significant difference between the case of the pharmacist and the case of the clerk in this incident. If a pharmacy customer was wearing a pro-abortion or pro-birth control T-shirt but filling a prescription for antibiotics, I do not think a Catholic pharmacist would be justified in refusing to serve the customer. He may find the message on the T-shirt offensive, but filling an unrelated prescription does not require his cooperation with anything immoral. On the other hand, filling a prescription for an abortifacient does put him as an active participant in an intrinsically immoral act. He has every right to refuse to cooperate with evil.
Jay Anderson said…
Catholic Mom,

Of course your analysis is 100% correct.

But the point is that the same folks who support the collective's PC policy are unlikely to see things our way on the pharmacist declining to fill a prescription for abortafacients. You know, interfering with a "fundamental right" and all (free speech is, I suppose, no longer considered a "fundamental right" where it is deemed "offensive").
Catholic Mom said…
No argument from me on that, Jay. I am guessing that these PC folks view both rights and morals as relative rather than absolute issues.

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