Gee whiz, lighten up people!

gordon gee“Americans have to learn how to take a joke.” – Herman Cain, 2012 Republican primary debate

Showing the talent for deflection common among philanderers*, Herman Cain also hit on a truth. In addition to a sense of humor, he could have added a sense of perspective. Distinctions need to be made in life, otherwise confusion reigns, and a country that self-loathes about the enhanced interrogation of proven terrorists yawns when 5 year olds who say “bang” at school are grilled until they pee their pants. Likewise, when our culture of offense leads us to impose a zero tolerance policy on offensive speech, our social vitality takes a hit.

The most recent example comes in the form of Ohio State president Dr. Gordon Gee, whose experience of having his comments recorded at a private OSU Athletics Council reception shows Obama’s surveillance state knows no bounds. Speaking extemporaneously to colleagues,  Gee added Catholics and the SEC to a previous long list of “offensive” mild dig targets that includes the Polish army and the Little Sisters of the Poor. Certain groups, who face real persecution and suffer from fresh wounds, deserve extra sensitivity from polite society. But if we can’t tell the difference between those situations and insulting the Little Sisters of the Poor’s nonexistent football team, or the SEC’s nonexistent educational standards for athletes, then our social confusion might be terminal.

When we act scandalized by simple jests, we affirm the professionally aggrieved, and encourage the more thuggish in their ranks. Continue reading