Current Observations Home Current Observations Home Current Observations Home

The Right to Offend?

Tuesday, February 01, 2005

In my daily reading of blogs, news and such, I was made aware of a spoof prescription drug that pokes fun at the pharmaceutical industry and the stresses of everyday life. Click here to see the image that this story refers to. Be warned, some people may find it objectionable. I, however, found it rather hilarious.

Anyway, I printed off this picture and took it to work with me. I was sure that none of my coworkers had seen this and wanted to share it with them. I was right. We all got a good laugh from it. Then it happened. Not thinking, I showed it to my coworkers wife. She and her mother-in-law had stopped by the store to pass a message to my coworker. He was busy with a customer, so I showed her the picture while she waited for him. I had the picture folded in half on my counter. I handed it to her and she and her mother-in-law read it. They both kind of half-heartily remarked that it was "kinda funny" and left it at that. Then it occurred to me that this was the same person that writes a biweekly column in our local paper espousing the Christian lifestyle. I felt pretty stupid.

After they left, I told my coworker what I had done. He wasn't very happy that I had showed it to his wife. I asked if there would be any fallout and he said that he was pretty sure that he would be "scolded" for being associated with "heathens". I felt bad. In an attempt to share a little laughter, I more than likely offended my coworker's wife and his mom.

I pondered this situation and decided that I would apologize to them for showing them the joke. But I didn't. Something didn't feel right to me about apologizing. Why would I say, "I'm sorry" for something that I did not find offensive? Did I do something wrong? Was there something wrong with the message? That's when it hit me. There existed two separate situations at work here. The first was the message, in general. The joke by itself is fine, for those who fancy this sort of humor. Then, there was the sharing of the joke. I did not allow proper warning to the contents of the folded paper before I handed it to the unsuspecting recipient. The responsible thing for me to have done was to notify the recipient that the message contained inside the folded paper may be objectionable to sensitive viewers. It was this action that I needed to apologize for, not the message. The message needs no apology.

I think that this event demonstrates on a very small level what we see happening everyday in this country. We all have the right of expression. We all have the right to offend others with our message, but at the same time, we are also responsible for that message. Therefore, if our message may be found questionable or objectionable, we have a responsibility to warn observers that they may be offended by our message. But, at no point should that message be censored for being offensive. Censorship is the line where our rights end and tyranny begins.


Post a Comment

<< Home

Powered by Blogger |



Who Links