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Should you be offended?

Last week, after one hundred days of satirical commentary, Stephen Colbert let loose a profanity-laced rant about Donald Trump.  Some viewers retaliated by demanding that CBS fire the talk show host.

In his defense, Colbert was responding to Trump’s rude behaviour and insults directed at a CBS reporter during their one-on-one interview.  But it wasn’t just Colbert’s lack of presidential respect that caused the uproar.  His outburst also included a particular phrase regarding the Commander-in-Chief and Vladimir Putin that was labelled “homophobic.”

Oh Stephen.  Again, in somewhat weaker defense, Colbert was not judging the goings-on between two consenting men, but Trump’s relationship with his Russian dominant – sorry, counterpart.

However, Colbert’s intent doesn’t matter.  People are offended about everything these days.  Comedians can’t make a joke without having a pre-prepared apology ready.

Apparently, we’ve forgotten one of comedy’s purposes:  to make a point, not a statement of fact.

In March during a late night visit to Jimmy Kimmel Live, Republican comedian Tim Allen commented on the largely liberal atmosphere in Hollywood, joking, “You’ll get beat up if you don’t believe what everybody believes. It’s like ’30s Germany.”

The Anne Frank Center for Mutual Respect wasn’t amused.  They called his statement a “deeply offensive characterization that trivializes the horrors imposed on Jews in Nazi Germany” and demanded an apology.

But Allen was talking about Fascism – the dictatorial belief that only one political party is acceptable.  Any opposition should be forcibly suppressed.  And “30’s Germany” was a fascist state – controlling every aspect of every person’s life.  He was comparing that mentality to current Hollywood politics.

Meanwhile, Chris Pratt was recently skewered for suggesting that people turn up the volume on his Instagram video to get the full effect, instead of just reading the subtitles.  He was attacked for being insensitive to those with hearing impairments.

People are offended by clothes, hairstyles, even restaurant menus.  And most are completely innocent … or at least, misconstrued.  So how do we interact in this global village if every act is presumed to be a personal slight?

If I laugh about the Gay Nineties, am I homophobic?  Or do you just not know your history?

If I offer you English muffins, Asian salad and French fries, am I culturally misappropriating foods?  Or am I just doing the weekly clean-out of my refrigerator?

And if I don’t shake your hand, am I racist?  Or did I just blow a giant loogie and don’t want to share my germs?

Or do I just not like you?

Certainly, social injustices must never be ignored.  But the message loses its power if it’s constantly misused against the most innocent and mistaken infractions.

The fact is I’ll never get every word just right for you.  And you’ll never be able to see what’s truly in my heart.  It’s a judgement call.

In the animal kingdom, those same judgements keep us from deciding to pet a grizzly.  But at least with the bear, you know his intent.  And he won’t apologize for it either.