A man and his wife flew to Hawaii for some fun and relaxation. Out they went into the sun and, having foregone sunscreen, they got severely sunburned.
“What?” exclaimed the man. “I believe I have the right to sit in the sun and not get burned! This is outrageous,” he declared and promptly went up to the concierge.
“Sir, I have paid good money to sit on your beach in front of this fine hotel, and I demand you do something about this sunburn. After all, I didn’t come all the way from the East Coast to get sunburned.
“And you certainly haven’t posted any signs warning us about the effects of the sun here, or had employees available to instruct on the use of sunscreen. Obviously, you are negligent in this matter, and I won’t stand for it.
“You have intentionally and egregiously infringed on my rights, offended my wife and myself deeply, and your ineptitude has ruined our vacation. What are you going to do about it?”
Of course, I could go on and put some snappy answer in the mouth of the concierge, but you get the point. The simple truth is some things in life are self-evident, or at least have been thought so for millennia.
We use to call it “common sense,” but alas, this “sense” that once was assumed of most who had achieved adulthood has become anything but common.
But the bigger problem revolves around what our societal failure to demand common sense as a prerequisite to social interaction has done to what we call our “rights.” What “rights” do we actually have a “right” to demand from the world around us?
Here are two of my favorite ridiculous expectations a growing number of people in our world consider their rights.
The right to never be inconvenienced is growing in popularity to the point where it is assumed by many. If the line at the market is too long, or too slow, don’t we have a right for someone to do something about it?
And if the streetlights are not timed well, and we end up stopping for them all on the way to the freeway, shouldn’t someone pay? And when the internet is slow, or the neighbor’s dog is too loud, or the faucets drip, or your favorite jeans won’t button any more … don’t we have the right to be upset, and even demand someone be held responsible?
After all, don’t we have the right to go through life in this world without being inconvenienced, frustrated, or bothered?
Right up there in second place is the right to never be offended. Apparently, history has been rolling along with one purpose: to make a society where no one is ever offended, where conflicting opinions, beliefs, values, and dreams have all been washed away by the cleansing river of insipid, shallow, currently-accepted-sweetener-coated platitudes (I didn’t want to offend by using sugar, or saccharin, or ???).
In this new utopia all dialogue is gone, since it might lead to disagreement, which in the new society is counted as hatred. If you don’t agree with me, it is because you are afraid of me, or hate me, or both.
And we certainly all have the right to be loved, accepted, valued, and lauded.
This supposed right to never be offended is surely the most pernicious virus currently ravaging our nation. Are you kidding me? Since when do we believe everyone has to be just like us, and like us, and support our cause?
I long for the days when ideas and truth carry more sway than emotion and sentiment, but at the current pace of societal expression, I may be waiting a long time.
The problem with these “rights” is we live in a broken world, with rough edges and a complex diversity that actually is responsible for the vibrancy of life itself. Yes, we are going to be inconvenienced, and offended, probably multiple times daily. Grow up! There is no way around it so you had better learn to make the best of it.
What we need is a healthy dose of common sense. We all need to put on the sunscreen of virtues like self-control, patience, courage and compassion.
After all, to be easily offended, or easily sent into a rage at the inconveniences of our day, is to be weak, not strong. It is to demonstrate immaturity, not superiority, a self-centered focus rather than a mature understanding of what it takes to live peaceably in a multi-cultural, multi-generational society.
If I’ve offended you, I’m okay with that, especially if it helps you think through just why you’re offended, and whether being offended is actually your best option.
Maybe it would be better to analyze your own feelings to see if you are caught in your own web of intolerance. Until then, please pass the sunscreen.