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What you need to know for 08/21/2017

Editorial: When did offensiveness become OK?

Editorial: When did offensiveness become OK?

Redskins' controversy shows how far we'll go to offend

The owners of the Washington Redskins shouldn't have needed a slapdown from the U.S. Patent and Trademark office to declare their team name to be offensive.

You can rationalize it all you want. But in the end, there's really no question as to whether or not it's offensive.

It is.

But what's even more offensive is that people continue to argue on behalf of offensive logos and offensive statements and offensive behavior as if it's somehow now a badge of honor.

The coarseness of our society is reflected in our unwillingness to back off when we're hurting someone. Society today has a tendency to push on, even when they know what they’re doing or saying is wrong.

When a lot of us adults were kids, bullying was, for the most part, an accepted part of life. Many of us experienced it to one degree or another. You either fought back, or you dealt with it until the bullies moved on to someone else, or you graduated. But today, thanks in part to social media, bullying has reached new levels of meanness and persistence to the point that kids are killing themselves over it. We now need laws and policies against bullying because people refuse to stop when they see someone being hurt by what they say or do.

Many newspapers invest a lot of time monitoring the online meanness that goes on in their article-comment sections. One newspaper years ago had to stop allowing comments on obituaries because people were actually going on them and saying mean things about the recently deceased.

Anonymity, a reduction in human interaction and the ease of sharing thoughts with a large audience in a short amount of time seems to have empowered an unprecedented level of meanness and thoughtlessness. The ability to send a message in 140 characters with a quick tap of the "Enter" key has taken away our boundaries. We are now free to road-rage from the safety of our computers.

Many people seem to have no idea how far-reaching and how permanent their online comments can be. Remember when your parents told you, "Think before you speak"? Maybe it needs to be amended to, "Think before you go on Facebook and call your boss a fat, ugly jerk."

It's not been all bad news for common decency. It took a century after the Civil War to pass a Civil Rights Act in this country. But 19 states and the District of Columbia now grant marriage rights to same-sex couples, up from zero just a decade ago. Those gay marriage votes, anti-bullying laws and laws specifically against crimes fueled by hate have grown out of the public's intolerance for mean-spiritedness and discrimination.

In some ways, we have become far less tolerant. In other ways, we have become exceptionally tolerant. But apparently not tolerant enough.

It all comes back to the original point, in that people today seem less able to judge the impact of their actions, less willing to consider who might be on the receiving end of them, and now, as with the case of the Washington Redskins ownership, less willing to reverse course when they’re clearly being offensive. With this team name issue, they persist, as do all of us who insist on pushing the boundaries of insensitivity beyond reasonableness.

We should be better than that by now. Why aren't we?

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