We live in a culture (and I'm speaking not only about the USA) that puts a high value on feeling offended. It seems that, for some people, finding occasions that allow them to be offended is a central purpose in their lives (if they have a life). I find this annoying most of the times, if not outright exasperating some times. And so, I formulated two laws of taking offense.
1. It is silly to be offended when no offense was intended.
This is so obvious to me that I won't elaborate.
2. It is silly to be offended when an offense was intended.
This law may need some explanation, which I'm providing below.
You do would-be offenders a great favor when you react as they want you to react, i.e., by being offended. A much more effective strategy is to frustrate them and beat them at their own game, by laughing at them or playing along (did I mention the name of this blog?). For example, there was a time when I followed live chats accompanying sports events like tennis matches. The level in these chats is so low that one has to participate to actually believe it; for example, a popular retort to someone whose remark a commenter does not like is, "I f***ed your mother last night." My standard response has been, in this case, "And she loved it and wants more," which shuts them up immediately. Of course, I now avoid chats like that like the plague.
A more serious illustration for my second law at work is provided by groups who adopt a moniker meant to be derogatory and use it themselves—with pride. A recent example from Germany is the adjective schwul, which was, when I grew up, a really negative designation of homosexuals. But gay people adopted it and it's now a completely common designation stripped of its former connotations. Homophobes had to come up with a new derogatory term, which is now, as far as I can see from my remote perch, the noun Schwuchtel. I hope gay people adopt this one, too; i.e., keep the bigots continuously on the run, rather than trying to continuously run away from them.
Here's an example from history: The Dutch who fought for liberation from their Spanish occupiers in the 80-year war (1568-1648) called themselves geuzen, a word derived from the French word for "beggar." It had been used initially by the Spanish as a derogatory moniker for the Dutch who resisted them. By making the word their own, those same Dutch robbed it of its sting. (Source: http://de.wikipedia.org/wiki/Geusen, visited on Dec. 2, 2014)
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