In Part I of this post, I asked the question: Does the statement “Fat piece of shit” offend your sensibilities? And if so, then why?
What makes the statement “Fat piece of shit” so cringeworthy? Is there ever a proper context for its use? Are you tolerating my use of the phrase because I am a writer and you are guessing that I might be engaging in hyperbole or some form of creative writing?
Let’s take a closer look. What gives a word its power? Is it the word’s definition? Is it the context, i.e., historical, linguistic, cultural, ethical and philosophical?
What if comedian, let’s say, Seth Meyers or John Oliver or Stephen Colbert or Jimmy Fallon was the one who used that line in his opening monologue? How seriously would you take that person? I imagine that some people would laugh out loud hearing one of those humorists use those words in one of his jokes. I mean, they are comedians.
So are the words themselves offensive? Or does it depend on how those words are used? What about the person(s) using those words? Does a person’s position, status or influence give that person license to express him or herself freely? What if the use of those words were part of a person’s cultural upbringing, just as “Damn” was tied to my sociocultural frame of reference?
What if Donald Trump was the one who said, “Fat piece of shit?” And let’s say he directed those words at a woman. How would you interpret his use of those words? Would you label him as a misogynist? What makes Trump’s use of those words so vile? What is the difference between the way he uses those words and how other people might use those words?
If the words “Fat piece of shit” are inherently offensive, then shouldn’t those words maintain their contemptible and objectionable nature despite the context and who uses them? Could it be that we assign a level of appropriateness to something based on our own insecurities, biases and values?
When I offend your sensibilities and your default reaction is to cut me off, censor me, judge me and minimize the essence of my personhood, in doing so, you are the one who is left with the mental burden to carry because with knowledge comes power and with power comes responsibility.
So what is the appropriate response to take when we feel slighted or offended? Should we: (1) live our truth; (2) expand our worldview; (3) suspend our judgement: or (4) find ways to adapt and thrive in an “offensive” world?
The universal truth is, we are more alike than different, and as human beings, we possess an enhanced and inherent capacity for good. Let’s not close the door on others simply because they espouse a worldview that might cause us to cringe.