25 January 2010

Oh, yeah? Well, I'm offended that you're offended!

People in general, and Americans in particular, love to get offended by things other people do or say. Some recent examples include:
Of course this is only the tip of the iceberg. I pulled these examples not because I necessarily think the offense is justified (some I do, some I don't), but because they were recent and top of mind. Other possible events are readily available.

Probably the only thing people like more than getting offended is insisting that everyone else NOT get offended. Which leads me to this article: Russian ice dance tribute to Aborigines offensive to Aborgines. In summary, the article is about a Russian ice dancing couple who chose Aboriginal imagery for their performance. Problem? None of the music, costumes or movements actually reflected Aboriginal culture, and some of it was offensive. As a former Australian resident, the article caught my eye.

However, it is the comments to the article that have drawn my ire. One questioned the author, Maggie Hendricks, for taking the word of Stephen Page, the artistic director of an indigenous group, that the dance was offensive. A few take pot shots at ice skating/dancing. But most expressed their opinion that people are too sensitive and that political correctness is ruining the fun for everyone.

In my experience, when people complain about the PC Police, what they are really doing is complaining about being reprimanded for their self-centered, offensive and boorish behavior. Take Brian, for example, who says "aboriginals are offended, big deal." Or Tim S, who wants to know "where's the bone in their nose?"

Josh D says "we are talking about Australian Bushmen here, right? I'm fairly certain they don't have televisions and are not at all concerned about how 2 Russians portray their extremely niche and secluded culture." First of all, Josh, activities and products are niche, cultures are not. And allow me to correct your misconception: yes, they do have televisions, and no, they do not all live in the bush. Walk around Sydney, Melbourne, or any major Australian city and you will see Aborigines. But even if you had been right about Aboriginal ignorance of television and Russian ice dancing, would that have made it OK? I was always taught that character was doing what was right even if no one was looking--wouldn't that apply here?

vgbaron: "Who the heck cares? These overly sensitive bozos should take the dance in the SPIRIT in which it was done. I am SO sick and tired of someone getting their panties in a bunch everytime [sic] yhey [sic] percieve [sic] a slight. I am an Italian and I don't get up in arms everytime [sic] there's an Italian mobster in a tv show or someone mentions dago red wine, etc." Well, vgbaron, I'm glad that as an Italian, you are not offended by these things. But I think you would agree there is a difference. I don't think mobster movies imply that all Italians are mobsters, and anyway, they are usually portrayed as a sort of anti-hero. As for dago red wine, A quick Google search finds some mention of it being offensive, but most references are neutral at worst. Personally, I've never heard the term. Maybe it's your friends. Either way, the fact that it does not offend you has zero relevance when it comes to what is or is not offensive to someone else.

Richard: "I am offended by all the people who are so easily offended. Just stop it and worry about something that actually might affect your life." But that's just the point, Richard: It is their life, not yours. And when we are talking about a severely marginalized community, it does affect their lives. We have a right to determine what offends us and how we deal with it. We have no right to make these determinations for others, particularly minorities.

Arni A: "Whats [sic] all the hupla. [sic] The russian [sic] thought it was a good idea and considered it an honor. And thus it did so. [sic] Maybe more research should have been done. but [sic] the thought is alright with me." True, the Russian pair intended it as a tribute. But that doesn't make it OK, because you were also correct that more research should have been done. Would it have been appropriate if they had chosen to "honor" Nigerians by skating in blackface while carrying spears? Or the ancient Chinese by painting themselves yellow and drawing slant eyes on their faces? Intent is important, but execution matters, too. I am sure they did not mean to offend. They probably started with an Aboriginal theme and modified it along the way to make it conform to the requirements of movement, music and costume for an ice dancing routine. But what they ended up with was no longer a respectful tribute to the proud Aboriginal heritage.

Perhaps the wisest commenter was lazurline_09, who said "I can't say anything because I know nothing about Aborigines." Who knows, this might encourage him/her to read up a bit. If only the others had shown similar restraint.

15 August 2009

Five Times August

For those who don't know, Brad is a friend of mine and a talented independent musician. He has a new project to release that he is currently raising money for. He is very close to his goal but only has one day remaining. Please consider making a donation to help him reach his goal. Thanks!

07 June 2009

Lucky Sevens: Jaromir Jagr

Heather and I are planning a trip in August to Germany, Czech Republic and Poland. We (more she than me at the moment) have been researching that part of Europe recently, and decided to make that this month's Lucky Sevens.

Jaromir Jagr is a hockey player from the Czech Republic. He is best known for his years in Pittsburgh, but he also spent time with the Rangers and a few years here in DC with the Capitals. He currently plays in Russia. Throughout his career, he has worn the number 68, as pictured above in his Czech Republic uniform. Your Lucky Sevens question for June: What is the significance of this number?

07 May 2009

Lucky Sevens: Washington Nationals

It's a good thing I started this Lucky Sevens series two years ago--I can't seem to post any thing else lately.

In order to help us integrate into our new home, Heather and I decided to get a Washington Nationals Sunday Mini-Plan, which gives us tickets to all thirteen Sunday home games. This means that we'll spend roughly every other Sunday afternoon out at Nationals Park, unless it's raining, like it did this past Sunday, postponing the game against the Cardinals. By the way, they still haven't announced a make-up date for that game, but I'm betting it's never made up. Since the Cards aren't scheduled to come to Washington again this season, I suspect they will hold it until the end of the season and only play it if necessary. My only hope is for St Louis to go down to the wire in the Central, requiring them to come back to D.C. and play the hapless Nats.

Recently, the Nationals resigned their best player, keeping him in town for the next five years. Your Lucky Sevens question for May: Can you name the player?

07 April 2009

Lucky Sevens: Cherry Blossoms

Last week marked the arrival of a Washington icon: the blooming of the cherry blossoms. We knew these trees lined the tidal basin near the national mall, but I've been surprised to see the white and pink blossoms all over the city and surrounds. Even our apartment complex is loaded with them.

Of course, these trees are not indigenous to the area. Your Lucky Sevens question for April: Where did these trees come from, and when and how did they get here?

07 March 2009

Lucky Sevens: Taxation Without Representation

As mentioned in last month's Lucky Sevens, the District of Columbia does not have voting representation in Congress. Of course, the debate here is that DC is not a state. Some (normally Republicans) argue that since the Constitution specifies that states will be represented in Congress, DC is excluded. They also occasionally argue that DC's population does not warrant a vote. Others, (mostly Democrats) argue that all Americans should have representation in Congress. Given that DC votes overwhelmingly Democrat (93-7 in the last presidental election), one cannot help but feel that the real conflict here is over the balance of power and a vote.

On Thursday, the Senate passed a bill to settle this, giving DC a vote in the House of Representatives, as well as an additional vote to Utah, which should normally bring a Republican vote to counter DC's likely Democratic one. The bill now moves to the House, where it is expected to pass easily.

Of course, all 50 states currently have representation in Congress. Your Lucky Sevens question for March: Name the states that have a smaller population than the District of Columbia.

24 February 2009

Policy change on Cuba?

Two years ago, I shared my opinion on the failure and injustice of the Cuban embargo. Now it seems that someone in Congress, a Republican no less, agrees. Senator Richard Lugar (R-Indiana) has stated that "the current U.S. policy has many passionate defenders, and their criticism of the Castro regime is justified. Nevertheless, we must recognize the ineffectiveness of our current policy and deal with the Cuban regime in a way that enhances U.S. interests." Thank you, Senator: I couldn't have said it better myself.

Perhaps this will finally lead to an end of the embargo. With the UN again calling for it's end, Obama in the White House, and a leading Republican on board, maybe it is time. There is a lot going on in our country right now: I look forward to the embargo's end being part of that change.