Many are well aware of Supreme Court Justice Potter Stewart’s famous line from his concurring opinion in a pivotal case on pornography: “I know it when I see it.” Copy editors are often called the readers’ last line of defense, but I’ve always assigned an additional task to myself when editing: Think dirty before the readers do … because, believe me, they will.
For copy editors at family publications such as the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette (meaning read by all ages), much of the time those directives apply to the offensive in general. Sometimes you just can’t easily categorize it, but you instinctively know that, for the bulk of readers, it will offend.
We obviously can’t keep everything out that might be offensive to someone, because everything has the potential to offend someone, so we have to aim for the middle ground.
Then there are the people who are offended by everything that doesn’t fit with their worldview. Nothing that contradicts that, even proven facts, will suit them. But we at the paper don’t write and edit for them.
In the news sections of the paper, you should find stories that tell the good and the bad, written as completely as possible with the information we have. On the opinion pages, you’ll find, of course, opinion, and ideally across the spectrum. If you want to read only what fits with your view of the world, you can do that, but you’re missing a chance to expand your views and think beyond the echo chamber.
Or you can just be offended that people you don’t agree with are having their voices heard.
So what offends me? Honestly, as the little sister of three older brothers, not much shocks me; I’ve pretty much heard and seen it all (gosh, thanks, guys). I am offended, though, by partisan imaginings of the other side’s reaction to whatever the big news event of the day is … which is seldom the actual reaction. A lot of those imaginings include the phrase “politically correct” … that phrase is a bit offensive to me as a proponent of plain-speaking … which much of what’s complained about actually is, so …
Why are we so ready to take offense at any and every little thing that might not fit in with what we want the world to be?
Some people are stuck in their partisan camps, unable to see or hear anything that hasn’t been thoroughly vetted by the party/church/whatever. This confirmation bias thus cuts them off from reality. Sure, a lot of the time reality’s not so fun, but avoiding it only serves to feed delusions that things are much worse or better than they actually are. And that just feeds a lot of incivility, and far too many erroneous assumptions about those with whom they disagree.
And that just annoys those of us who choose to live in the real world.
Sadly, partisans on the fringes, especially, see only their tiny world as real, as is evidenced by Facebook and Google+ feeds, newspaper comment boards, and assorted sites generally populated only by the true believers and a few trolls. I’m only on Google+, and don’t check my feed all that much; still, I often have to mute or block the worst offenders (generally those who don’t even pretend to look at the other side).
If you ever want to waste hours of your life, take a look at the sniping that happens online … and yes, one party (or more specifically, an extreme faction of that party) seems to be doing the bulk of the sniping, but no one’s innocent here, especially when it comes to the stereotypes we assign to the opposition, whoever it is.
So how ’bout some of the worst of the simplistic broad assumptions about the two major parties, a big source of a lot of incivility? You can’t judge millions of people based on a handful of people who may exhibit stereotypical party traits, yet that’s what so many do.
Democrats aren’t all militaristic about being politically correct (none I know are) or abortion on demand as birth control (who are the people who do this other than sex workers? I mean, really …), nor do they believe government should do everything (especially limit speech or freedom of religion) or spend money out the wazoo (where is that located anyway?). Democrats aren’t all godless communists (I know of a lot of Christians and a few atheists and socialists, but perhaps I’m not looking in the right places …). Left-leaners are not all humorless hippies (have you met Jon Stewart or Stephen Colbert?), and I’ve yet to meet one who believes all guns should be melted down and fashioned into a lovely statue of Barack Obama.
Republicans aren’t all Bible-thumpers (some thump other books and follow faiths other than Christianity … some are even atheists) and don’t all believe women are inferior (especially not Republican women, who are, of course, vastly superior in every way). They aren’t all anti-government, and indeed recognize that some rules are needed for a civil society. And Republicans really aren’t all that politically incorrect despite claims to the contrary, nor do they all much care about the First or Second Amendment. They most definitely are not all humorless (some of the funniest people I know are Republicans, some of them even intentionally).
Quite simply, broad caricatures of the major parties are great for editorial cartoonists, but there’s much more to most people than can be easily categorized; it’s just that those who fit the stereotypes tend to be the loudest and most militant about their cause. The bulk of the people in the center and to the left and right of center understand this, and, yeah, we tend to be the ones rolling our eyes or trying to keep from laughing.
On the Voices page, we won’t always have a 50-50 split (actually, we rarely do), nor should we, but what you see here is representative of the letters we get and those that are processed at any given time. Occasionally you’ll see intraparty disagreement (OMG!!! You mean they disagree with the party???? Horrors!), as well as some Democrats who agree with Republicans and vice versa, because that’s what’s in the real world. If you step outside that bubble and into the light, you’ll see that.
And if that offends you, you can always cover your eyes.
For those wanting an update on my medical status, there’s not much to report right now. I’m still recovering and still a bit paranoid every time I get a headache. I have a follow-up with the neurologist next week, and have my fingers crossed that I’ll get a few answers on why my stroke happened. I’ll let you know when I find out and have had a chance to digest what I’ve learned.
And don’t forget about artist Ray Ferrer, who’s battling a brain tumor and faces medical bills much higher than my own. If you can afford to, please donate to his GoFundMe account, or buy some of his art (and at a discount). If all you have to offer are prayers and positive thoughts, Ray and Rhian can use that too.