I was going to write this as a reply to a comment in my last post, but this diatribe deserves its own post.
As far as I can recall, no matter how callous, no statement has ever offended me. Sheer stupidity, blind arrogance, and willing ignorance often raise my temperature, but I have no memory of ire roused by lines crossed. While the lines of public oppobrium have blurred significantly in recent decades, for most, nestled at the pale of off-color possibilities, rests a push for the conceivable shove. Over the years, somehow mine seems to have moved to warmer climes.
Why is that? Out of a “revolving cheek” policy? An apathy seated so deep its buttocks are below sea level? Morals flexible enough to join the Cirque du Soleil? Entirely probable, but the little voice-over at the back of my head suggests something else.
First, understand this. Hatred is like fire: fierce, fickle, finite. Ephemeral as a passing scent, fed on the most transient of comestibles. It exudes an aura fell, beautiful, and magnetic, and therein lies the difficulty. Proximity. Hold it at arms length and it can light your way for a time. Clasp it to your chest and you immolate. Hatred turns your insides to ash, devours your feelings, destroys your memories, boils your very blood. Worse still, it becomes a genetic disease. You pass it to your children. They pass it to theirs. This is the nature of violence. This is the nature of history.
Now, understand that the power of words exists only within one’s brain. In solitude, the three lines comprising the letter A contain no inherent meaning. Language makes meaning. History makes language. Do you see where I am heading with this?
The modern conception of table etiquette is a holdout from the 17th century. Upon his accession to the throne, King Louis XIV of France was in many ways bereft of power, a powerless figurehead at the mercy of the French nobility. Throughout his reign, he entrapped the noblemen in a complex, arbitrary set of mannerisms at his lavish court banquets, distracting them as he built his power up via other means. Hundreds of years later, some still express umbrage at the broaching of the Sun King’s rules.
Put another way, nobody will write a letter to the editor were I to say that King Sargon of Akkad was a child-raping, shit-smoking cock jockey. Why? Nobody knows who he is. Nobody cares.
If I get offended, it is because I let myself get offended. I let words have that power over me. I accepted that history into myself. I gave someone that access to my brain. Offense is an ember of conflict. I will not stoke that flame.