We’ve all read the news and how last year has been referred to as the “Year Everyone was Offended by Something”. I’m not a political person and I truly do avoid discussing politics, religion and other sensitive subjects. If people post things that I don’t find interesting, I either scroll past or hide them etc. However, there are times when people enter into territory that I feel compelled to respond. It seems though that expressing ones opinion has now become something new to be offended about.
If I feel strongly about a subject that has been brought up, I will openly and freely respond. I fully expect people to not agree with me, or they wouldn’t have posted the original item in the first place. However, some will go out of their way to argue the issue into the ground. In most cases, I walk away before letting myself get overwhelmed emotionally and I have learned my lesson on a few occasions when I haven’t.
I am neither a Republican nor a Democrat, I don’t watch sports of any kind, in fact, I don’t watch broadcast or ‘live’ TV. I watch a series here and there through my Prime subscription, but that’s about it. So, when it comes to all the raging going on online about this candidate or this person’s religion or sexual orientation, I truly try to stay out of it. Sometimes though, when someone is being very obvious and going after a certain group, I’ve been known to speak up.
I’m not taking about simple things that go after a sports team rivalry, but open, derogatory bashing of people based on their disability, their appearance (race, weight etc) or their place in the LGBT community, just to name a few. As the parent of two children with Autism, I’ve seen what bullying can do to not only a child’s self-esteem, but their will TO LIVE. I was recently told that I didn’t know the difference between a joke, teasing and bullying. I most certainly do. Society has a long history of singling out people and treating them badly just because they aren’t like them. For example, people forget that just a generation ago, it was illegal for blacks and whites to marry and a generation before that, black men were even killed for even attempting to court a white woman. Don’t believe me? Read up on Emmitt Till (warning: the subject matter in the article is very offensive, but sadly a factual account).
If you think that’s not enough history to refresh your memory about how we’ve treated people who “go against societal norms” read about the history of violence against the LGBT community. Looking for statistics about how those in the Disability Community are terrorized and victimized? The Bureau of Justice Statistics can fill you in.
Since we have barely evolved but are more willing to accept that love is love, no matter the race, gender or religion (well, we’re slowly working on it anyway), it is thankfully more socially acceptable for people to love whom they choose. In yet another example of how we treated the children in our society who weren’t perfect, just a generation ago, many children with disabilities were sent away to live in horrible institutions where they received sub-standard care and lived lives devoid of love and a future they deserved. Today, we are finally starting to recognize the capabilities of those living with physical and cognitive challenges and putting them to good use. Sadly, there are still those who make fun of the disabled, but that is their loss right? Actually, it is all our loss.
What always shocks me when I see a certain community get attacked by bigotry, cruelty and taunting is that people still find ways to justify it, just like now forbidden social taboos. If someone is overweight, it is perfectly justified to bash them and taunt them. The person in the middle of a gender change is subject to all manner of ridicule and taunting for some reason. I’d like to believe that most of this misinformed bullying comes from truly not understanding what it’s like to be a part of that community and the challenges many individuals face. I don’t think that someone who is transgender wakes up one day and decides, “You know what? I’m tired of being a man. I’m going to change my sex”. I mean, c’mon! The gay couple who marched for twenty years for equal rights getting spat on as they leave the courthouse. What about the obese person taking that first step and signing up for a gym membership or going for that first, brave walk towards better health and someone yells, “Fatty!” out the car window.
In my opinion, there is no reason to single out people for who they are. You do not know the circumstances people face. Why can’t we be a kinder, gentler society that treats people with love and respect. Or, at the very least, if we don’t like what we see, then move on, or at least ASK a question and learn more. Just because someone doesn’t worship your god or attend your church or love the same “type” of person you do doesn’t give you the right to demean them, taunt them or make a joke out of them. So the next time you want to forward that photo of the little girl with Down’s Syndrome that says she can “count to potato” or the “retard” reference, or the photo that makes fun of transgender people, remember, there are REAL people out there and families living with circumstances you can’t imagine. What’s that saying…”Walk a mile in my shoes”? </remove soapbox>