February 25, 2004
much e-mail from people containing ethnic humor. No ethnic
block is spared, but these are all likely to offend someone.
I am offended. I don't want to hurt the feelings of friends
and relatives who send me this garbage and demand that
they stop. What is wrong with our society that people
feel free to send this garbage?
answer is you, along with a large segment of our society.
Good people just like you, who are not quite sure how
much risk to take to stand up for what is important to
them, are responsible for why this cruel and sarcastic
material continues to be shipped around. When caring and
thoughtful people confront these insensitivities and say
they are not going to put up with it anymore, then quite
a bit of it will stop.
That singing group, Peter, Paul and Mary, present a wonderfully
thoughtful song entitled: "Don't Laugh At Me."
Its lyrics address this issue of cruelty and insensitivity,
both maturely and compassionately:
"I'm a little boy with glasses -- the one they call
a geek, a little girl who never smiles 'cause I have braces
on my teeth. And I know how it feels to cry myself to
"I'm that kid on every playground who's always chosen
last -- a single mother tryin' to overcome my past.
"Don't laugh at me. Don't get your pleasure from
my pain. In God's eyes we're all the same. Someday we'll
all have perfect wings..."
As these troubadours and teachers remind us, the answer
is truly "blowin' in the wind." Obviously, there
is risk in confronting one's friends and colleagues. There
is a certain discomfort, even anxiety, in announcing personal
standards and requesting that those values be respected.
There is a potential high price for maintaining principles.
With true friends, the risk is small. With others, the
rejections can make a significant part of life very lonely.
So, if you are hurt by cruel and insensitive "humor"
then evaluate the consequences of being direct with colleagues
and communicate how important your own integrity is and
why integrity matters to you. Ask others to lay off the
sarcasm and the zingers and see what wonderful things