Who gets to decide what is offensive?

August 25, 2017


Ok . . . this is a very different kind of story for me. When it was posted at the beginning of this week on the AL.com site, it received more comments than any other story. The commenters on that site are allowed to be anonymous, so it tends to bring out the worst in people. Towards the end of over 1,000 comments, it turned into a debate about Auburn vs. Alabama football, so let that be your guidepost on reading comprehension levels. My personal email box blew up with a ton of comments from people, and 100% of them loved this story. I’ve never had nicer feedback from readers until this. 

Many people said it was unlike other things they’ve read on AL.com, which tends to have more liberal opinions. Regarding that, let me just say, never once has anyone at AL.com told me what I can or can’t write. In the spirit of freedom of speech and freedom of the press, they’ve welcomed my mostly conservative voice. I think hearing both sides to a story actually makes us think, and that’s what I’ve tried to do here. 

I wasn’t trying to compare Civil War statues to the Roman Colosseum, but rather make the point that what offends one person may not offend another, and if in fact we are offended, do we then have the right to force everyone to believe like we do? Anyway, here it is. Even if you don’t agree with me, thanks for taking the time to read and think about this issue. 

I’ll get back to writing about Southern manners, pearls and teenagers next week!

I had an eerie feeling while visiting the Colosseum in Rome. Although it was an ancient relic from another time, the fact that it was used for the sport of killing Christians was mind numbing. Literally fed to the Lions, these people had no way of escaping a brutal, humiliating and unjustified death. Making it worse, the crowds would cheer as the bodies of the Christians were mutilated. I was close to tears seeing how other tourists from around the world were also touched and deeply moved during the somber tour, and silently gave thanks that I live in a society where I can freely worship without fear. Even though the Colosseum haunted me with memories from a terrible time in history, I never once felt offended, or thought it should be demolished to save my feelings.

Those who are fighting to remove our Civil War statues are leading us down a slippery slope. Eliminating the painful part of our country makes the shiny new version of America worth less. If the ugly past is erased, future generations will think their freedom was effortless.

A movement to relocate the monuments to private property at first sounds like a good idea, but then, only those with resources will be able to see the relics and learn the stories they tell.

The controversy seems to be less about sanitizing our past and more about arguing over who is the most offended. What stops someone from being offended by the Vietnam War and chip away names on that monument?  What if someone is offended by the rumors that Martin Luther King Jr. . . .  please click HERE to continue reading the story on AL.com

  • Andrea Irish says:

    Sincere thanks for your thoughts and article! Can’t agree more! Such a strange time! Seriously, we need to have the courage to stand up peacefully for what we believe.
    Andrea IRish

    • You are so right. Peacefully being the quality everyone needs to aim for.

  • You are amazing, once again. You put into words, what my mind has been thinking. Thanks for your honest interpretation and courage to post.

    • Thanks for the encouragement Lori. You are kind to read and offer your opinion.

  • Susan Key says:

    This article represents exactly what racism looks like. Comparing being offended by plagiarism or infidelity to memorializing a cause that supported slavery which involved the buying & selling of men, women & children, their beatings, their incarceration..need I go on? And you compare this to being offended by plagiarism & infidelity? Your article & most of the comments here are exactly what Southern racism is about.
    When you are 1 of 4 groups supporting something & the others are Klansmen, Nazis & white supremacists then you really need to take a good look in the mirror. I think I’ll take infidelity & plagiarism any day of the week over beating children, women & men & selling them naked on the block! But go ahead just call me out for the Christian that I am!

    • Susan, I’m going to go ahead and publish your comment, although you aren’t really getting what the main idea of the story is about. It isn’t comparing or rating which sin is worse, but instead, my point is that if we allow one group to decide what is offensive, then other groups are sure to follow and their ideas may not be the same as ours. Sure, slavery was far worse than infidelity, but just because you and I may think that, what keeps someone else from thinking differently? It isn’t a story about how bad one sin is over the other, but how everyone now thinks they get to be the judge and take matters into their own hands. Thanks for reading and taking the time to comment. I’m hoping others will also begin to discuss what will happen if we allow everyone to be offended over something.

  • Thank you for this, Leslie Anne.

    I avoid posting anything controversial on FB for the simple reason that I have loved ones on opposite sides of almost any subject. So I don’t enter into it. But as Jenna said above, for the very first time I’m keeping silent not only not to offend but because I’m afraid, mostly of ridicule but also because of fear of what this whole thing will descend to in time.

    Is statesmanship, diplomacy, and commonsense a thing of the past?

    • Dewena, I understand your reluctance to speak out and I don’t blame you, but trying to have an open discussion on the cause of an issue should be of interest to all sides. Wouldn’t you think? This topic isn’t really about one issue. It’s going to spill over into other areas and issues where everyone feels entitled to be the judge and jury if we aren’t careful.

  • Robin in Virginia says:

    Your article was spot on. Thank you for writing about this and putting it in plain language.

  • Amen, Bravo and once again, I wish your wise words could be heard everywhere and often. I am so baffled as to the rage being expressed all over our country. Never in my life have I been afraid until recently. Now I’m afraid to express any opinion at all. It makes me literally sick to see the violent behavior that is actually riots not the “protests” they are labeled. There is no end to the road we are now upon, when now it seems if something offends you, you can destroy it without punishment. Please keep your honest words and commentary coming, the world needs sensible thinkers to show the way…

  • Kim Alexander says:

    Your article is wonderful! I read yesterday where now stained glass windows may be removed from the National Cathedral! I tried to share your article on Facebook and also tried to leave a comment, but Facebook would not let me do either. I guess being offended is more important than free speech – and common sense!

    • I’m so sorry you couldn’t leave a comment in other places, but thanks for trying again here on the blog. I’m so sad to hear about the stained glass windows! People are caught up in a frenzy and not thinking this through. I won’t stop until we are wiped clean of any identity at all! So scary!

  • Well said! This should be required reading for EVERYBODY.

  • AMEN! I couldn’t agree more. Good for you to tackle the subject.

  • Well done, in fact great. So journalism is not completely lost in this country. I had almost given up. Many thanks!

    • Thanks Connie. It’s always a challenge to speak up on a controversial subject. I know there are many different opinions, and I just hope everone can take a breath and begin to talk.

  • Jenny (JoJo) Owen says:

    Leslie Anne, do you ever come talk with small local book clubs?
    Eastern Shore Friends and Fun is a group of middle-age + ladies, most of whom moved to the area in retirement. This group has an informal Book Chat on the third Friday of every month. We like having local authors join us. Would this be something you might consider? JoJo

  • Peggy spencer says:

    Amen,You have hit the nail right on the head!i wish I could have said this as eloguently as you.History needs to be there for all to see,not just what one group or another thinks is important.

  • Henry N Russell says:

    Thank you!!!!!!!!!!

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