Just because you’re offended, doesn’t mean you’re right.

Being offensive can happen with or without intent. 

The act of being offensive is causing someone to feel deeply hurt, upset, or angry. 

This can happen for a wide spectrum of reasons. A look, act, statement, joke, picture, story, book, movie, song, artwork and other variables are all likely candidates to create offensive feelings in others and can all be applied with malice in forethought, or completely unexpectedly through innocent circumstances and everything in-between.

At first blush, it would appear that one should avoid creating offensive elements, so as to be fair and reasonable to others. It makes good sense and stands to reason that efforts to avoid being offensive are all good ones.

But, as quickly as you might take that posture, we are able to conjure circumstances in which it is mandatory to be offensive if there is (potentially) a higher cause that is being served.

I muse about this today because of the extreme right movement to ban books that they deem offensive. Take a book like “To Kill a Mockingbird.” Despite dealing with the serious issues of rape and racial inequality, the novel is renowned for its warmth and humor. Atticus Finch, the narrator’s father, has served as a moral hero for many readers and as a model of integrity for lawyers. The historian Joseph Crespino explains, “In the twentieth century, To Kill a Mockingbird is probably the most widely read book dealing with race in America, and its main character, Atticus Finch, the most enduring fictional image of racial heroism.” As a Southern Gothic novel and Bildungsroman, the primary themes of To Kill a Mockingbird involve racial injustice and the destruction of innocence. Scholars have noted that Lee also addresses issues of class, courage, compassion, and gender roles in the Deep South. The book is widely taught in schools in the United States with lessons that emphasize tolerance and decry prejudice. Despite its themes, To Kill a Mockingbird has been subject to campaigns for removal from public classrooms, often challenged for its use of racial epithets. In 2006, British librarians ranked the book ahead of the Bible as one “every adult should read before they die”.

This book, despite its stature, is still being targeted in numerous states in this country for removal from libraries. Many people feel that it brings up subjects that make them uncomfortable and, as a direct result, offends them. That is the point of the fucking book! To offend the reader’s deep sense of what is right and point attention to issues of intolerance and unfair treatment that need to be corrected.

Proponents of removing this and countless other thought-provoking books of similar ilk will readily call out the “woke” movement in which members of a segment of our society feel righteous to shame every last variable that offends them. Without question, any such movement will have extremes on both sides. One side is offended that dark chapters of history that reflect poorly on their ancestors is being studied, while an opposing extreme is offended by every little thing that they can point their fingers at.

Those who do not study history are doomed to repeat it.

Wait. Let me say that again….Those who do not study history are doomed to repeat it. Doomed to repeat it. Doomed to repeat it.

The insanity behind the movements to refute that the holocaust ever took place are ones that truly offend me. I feel so offended that I think that there ought to be a government program that if you are a holocaust denier, you and your family should be taken and forced to spend a weekend outside in your pajamas in one of the concentration camp remnants in the cold of winter, without food or shelter for 48 hours and shown graphic visuals of the atrocities committed in that location. 

Offensive behavior, comments, actions and protests are not limited to one political view or party. People all around the world are doing offensive things, causing others to react and to think. Sometimes that is a good thing, and other times, it is borderline horrific and everything in-between.

I do not see offensive behavior going away in any near term future. I think that both sides of the equation are forced to reconcile themselves to the fact that there are many out there who do not feel as they do. Sometimes that is very disquieting and clearly it makes me uncomfortable. I listen to what they say and I am very offended. But my personal sense of being offended does not (necessarily) make me right. It only enables me to express how and why whatever they are saying, doing, showing or promoting is either inaccurate, inappropriate and should come with consequences.

In a world in which the First Amendment enables us to practice Freedom of Speech, it is appropriate that both sides of any issue need be prepared to hear what the other side is saying. We may not agree with it, but provided it is happening legally, there should be room for dissenting opinions, even those that want to ban a book like To Kill a Mockingbird. From that point forward, our legal system is our only viable recourse against the offensive acts of others.

Controversy is honestly a great thing. It may not always feel that it is a great thing, but deep within, the ability to have controversy far outweighs the prospect of a homogenous world in which the feelings of many are ignored and subverted in favor of the homogeny. 

I am certain that many things that I postulate are provocation of concepts that will offend others. And they are welcome to be offended. But regardless of whether they do or do not feel those feelings, it will never necessarily mean that they are justified in feeling offended, nor does their sense of offense instantly put them into a superior position of moral turpitudes. 

Happy Sunday!

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Written by Brian Weiner
When I was 5 years old, I discovered that the lemon tree in the backyard + dixie cups + water and sugar and I was in business. I have been hooked on that ever since. In 1979, I borrowed $14,000 to create a brand new product... photographic greeting cards with no text on the inside, called Paradise Photography. That was the start of The Illusion Factory. Since then, The Illusion Factory has been entrusted by all of the major studios and broadcasters with the advertising and marketing of over $7 billion in filmed, live, broadcast, gaming, AR, VR and regulated gaming forms of entertainment, generating more than $100 Billion in revenue and 265 awards for creativity and technology for our clients. When I took a break from film school at UCLA to move to Hawaii, my mother did not lecture me. Instead, she took 150 of her favorite aphorisms and in her beautiful calligraphy, wrote them artistically throughout a blank journal. That is the origin of the Lessons from the Mountain series. Since then, on my journeys to the top of a mountain to watch the sunrise, I have spent countless hours contemplating words of wisdom from the sages of all races, genders and political persuasions, constantly accumulating the thoughts to guide me on my life path. I hope you enjoy my books. Please let me know your thoughts, as I highly value your feedback!