We would like to thank everyone who sent us their essays. The hard work is evident, the variety of approaches to the topic is delightful, and the choice of winners was difficult.
In addition to encouraging and rewarding good creative writing, we hope that the Muskingum College community will enjoy these essays and that thoughts expressed in them will be discussed. Most of the essays are included in the following pages. (Some authors asked that their essays not be posted or that they be posted without attribution.)
Please read these essays and share your thoughts on them with others.
[Matt Mayforth. Submitted 10/4 ]
Overall, Americans are more sensitive to offensive language than at another point in U.S. history. Certain words and expressions that were considered acceptable two generations ago will now evoke outrage and immediate condemnation. However, even though our society promotes tolerance and understanding, there are still a minority of people who are bigots. One such bigot was a peer in a high school English class.
English class junior year was a course that mainly focused on American Literature. Of course any reputable class discussing American Literature must analyze works during time historical periods when America had a dramatic increase in immigrants entering the country. These historical periods, however, relates to the large influx of illegal immigrants entering the country and establishing residence today. While reading works about immigrants of the early 20th century, a classmate of mine made comments at the time which I cannot recall that absolute outraged everyone in the room. Apparently, this individual had a car accident with an illegal immigrant from Mexico being at fault. The immigrant was unable to compensate for damages as he did not have car insurance. This encounter was, in my classmate’s views, justification for his racist comments made toward Hispanics in general during class discussions. The next day our teacher had us read a short story about a woman who was facing a kind of identity crisis. She was the daughter of illegal immigrants; however, because she was born on American soil she was considered an American. The discussion of this particular story spiraled out of control quickly. My racist classmate made a comment that if he were a boarder petrol agent he would “send that girl back to Mexico”. The other classmates and I spoke out against his terrible comments in class, but he continued to say offensive comments towards Hispanics and Latinos in general so our English teacher informed him that what he was saying was unacceptable and ended the discussion entirely.
This example reflects the opinion of a sizeable minority in the United States, who speak badly about certain people because their race is the focus of a political debate. Hopefully, one day situations like this will be just a thing of the past but until then offensive comments like the one discussed in this essay must be continuously combated against.
[Beth Meadows. Submitted 10/6. Revised 10/8.]
Submitted by Beth Meadows
STOP! That’s offensive.
In today’s society it seems that much of one’s day to day activity is prone to offend someone. We have an awareness program for everything ranging from the obvious faux pas of smoking cigarettes to simple dialect differences. It is becoming quite hard to keep up with when one tends to be etiquette conscious.
Most of the change we see in social offenses can be attributed to simple etiquette infractions. Other times, the “offended” may simply not truly be offended at all, but rather playing the role to make a point. The perfect example of the latter relates to smoking. Some folks still chose to smoke even in this hostile environment of change toward it. Smokers have been handed one rule after another over time about what is appropriate behavior and what is not. As of late, what is not appropriate outweighs what is for smokers. What used to be the norm, has become quite the opposite.
In years past, it was completely appropriate for a smoker to light up in his or her office. At that time, it was considered rude if he or she didn’t offer guests a cigarette as well. In the current environment, this is not only illegal, but to offer a cigarette to someone who isn’t a known smoker could cause them great dismay. The assumption of assuming smoking status amongst those who do not, could be quite offensive in the eyes of a non-smoker. At the same time, the youth of today may not even be aware that as little as 25 years ago in this region, lighting up in your office was expected. Laws were passed that pushed smoking to designated indoor areas only. Later, smoking was expected to take place outdoors in most public places. Most recently, in Ohio, voters passed a law that prohibits smoking within some (as of yet) undefined distance from any building entry.
With all the change to smoking etiquette and laws, non-smokers still do not seem to realize that being in compliance with those changes should allow those who still smoke to feel at ease with their smoking. Yet, even after smokers follow all the rules, some non-smokers can still make efforts to offend those that smoke. My personal favorite act is when a non-smoker walks nearby an outdoor ashtray and does the fake cough. Now, if there were only one entrance to a building, this could be understandable. When there are many options to enter a building and a non-smoker chooses to enter by way of the only door that holds an option to extinguish cigarettes, my sympathy for such a person wanes. Non-smokers have also chosen to sit directly beside an outdoor ashtray then pretend to cough when a smoker walks over to it to follow the rules of etiquette by using the container rather than pitching the butt to the ground.
It seems that our western culture leaves us feeling as if finding something to be offended by is now our norm. So, to that I say… If you’re a non-smoker, think about your own choices before you attempt to make your point about being offended by the behavior of smokers. If you chose to share space designated as appropriate for smokers and then complain about it, please stop. That’s offensive! If we’re going to be a society that seeks out the offensive behaviors in others, let’s start thinking about both sides of the behavior before doing so.
[Gareth Klieber. Submitted 10/6 ]
“Irreverence is the champion of liberty and its only sure
“They'll say, ‘You can't joke about rape. Rape's not
funny’. I say, (expletive) you, I think it's hilarious.
How do you like that?"
“I now make my living by being impolite.”
A day cannot go by in which I am not accused of
insensitivity, offensiveness, and overall tasteless humor. I
do not deny this, nor do I feel shame for it. Whether it’s
a joking accusation that a certain ethnic group was
responsible for the World Trade Center attacks or an offhand
comment about the Virginia Tech body count, if I see a joke,
I will make it. I am relatively devoid of human restraints
such as compassion and sorrow. Despite the ire that is
regularly aroused by this behavior, I believe that the world
can be made a better place simply by a collective agreement
to stop taking things so seriously.
My favorite example of this principle is suicide. Our
hotlines, billboards on the sides of highways advertising
said hotlines and school curriculum that practically resorts
to begging students not to do the deed. Even worse are the
eulogies. Everywhere, we must read a tribute to the deceased
in which society tortures itself over not noticing and
preventing it. With the near-clockwork canonization of
self-killers, what bullied child wouldn’t want to be next?
This is where cruel humor comes into play as not only an
undesirable element of society, but the savior of lives.
Take the case of young Mitchell Henderson. This troubled boy
shot himself after his iPod was stolen. As quickly as his
friends jumped in with a memorial Myspace page and several
ludicrous attempts at poetry, the internet at large
responded with all the humor, irreverence and bad PhotoShops
they had at their disposal. In the name of lulz (a
corruption of the acronym “LOL”), they destroyed the
place of mourning and turned it into a comedy club. If I
were contemplating suicide, one look at the Mitchell
Henderson memorial would instantly remove it from my list of
In America, we have a problem with offending people. The
most important thing is never to harm anyone’s
self-esteem. We have our PC language and our lawsuits all to
make sure nobody ever has to admit they are living their
life wrong. If we try to comfort our fat people by calling
them “weight challenged”, is it any wonder why America
has such a high level of obesity? If we try to comfort our
stupid people by calling them “mentally handicapped”, is
in any wonder why our national IQ is so low? We do not need
to even suggest the unthinkable option of eugenics, we
merely need to call a spade a spade and eliminate
euphemisms. The moment a politically correct label is
applied, it becomes an excuse for their situation, and
removes every American’s greatest fear: responsibility.
[Sue Tippel. Submitted 10/7]
Stop! That’s Offensive!
By Sue Tippel
The fact that I feel it necessary to carefully sort through topics that offend me to find one that is politically correct enough to write about is the most offensive issue of all. In order to survive in the 21st century, I must strive to appear to never be offended by or offensive to anyone in order to be a good global citizen. You never know what kind of opinions might be considered “reasonably suspicious” or even “dangerous” in the near future. It must be O.K. to be a Communist now though. After all, we have no problem buying all of our goods from China and handing them our jobs.
I could write about something trivial, like those noisy, nerve-jarring, “clip-clop” shoes that, if used flagrantly, make women sound and look like nervous, prancing ponies in heat. I think we need a law banning these kinds of shoes from all public buildings and within 20 feet from any outside entrance on the basis of noise pollution that can digress through doors and potentially raise blood pressure, causing strokes and heart attacks. We all know now that if we make enough laws, we can prevent all accidents, illnesses, and crimes and keep people perfectly safe—totally unfree, but righteously safe.
Or how about those irritating people that whine about not being able to retire, even though their retirement income would be more than what any lower middle class person, like myself, has ever earned. Poor things. They probably worry about life insurance, too. I try to relate, but it’s aggravating. All I know is, if I could barely get by living in a truck camper only driving my 12-year-old car to town every two weeks for groceries without having to work, I would be all over it so fast it would make your head spin. Wait a minute--that’s sort of like what I do now only I have to work. Life can be hard…
So why do Christians say things like, “Gettin’ old is bad, but it’s better than the alternative!” Don’t they believe heaven is a gloriously wonderful place, and that they already have their place on a corner lot reserved there for when they die? You’d think they would be lining up for a shot at getting off the planet. Contradictions like this would be humorous if they weren’t annoying. But I have crossed the line to the more serious subject of religion and need to stop. I wouldn’t want anything I write here to end up in a database somewhere that could prevent me from getting a minimum wage service job when I’m in my early 80’s.
It’s time to tuck the rest of my bristling little thoughts back in my head and just sit back and watch the show unfold, or unravel, as the case may be.
[Melissa Adams. Submitted 10/7]
When it comes to woman’s rights, I guess you can say i'm a
bit of a feminist. I do strongly believe that woman and men
are equal on any playing field. The thing I find the most
offensive personally is those men out there that are so
egotistic. The men who see no place on this planet for woman
other than being at home, having children and cooking or
doing whatever woman are “meant” to do at home, its
wrong. The man is to be the head of the household but he’s
meant to be the leader, to guide, not to control. Men should
not see woman as lesser value than themselves, he is to
protect and provide. Not all women may be physically able to
do what a man can but that doesn’t make any woman less of
a person. All people were created equal, male and female.
Men hold no higher power then woman and I don’t believe
woman hold a higher power than men. I don’t believe all
men are this way, I know there not but there are some out
there. I wish there was a way to show everyone, to make all
those egotistic males see that everyone are just people. We
were all created equal in worth by God, we all breathe, eat
and sleep, so why do men think they are so much better. Sure
we have different roles in life and woman and men fulfill
different parts in life. Were all human, we all share this
world. People are people no matter skin color or sex. So
those guys out their need to wake up and realize that woman
are here and were just people like you.
[Kaneale Bintz. Submitted 10/8]
In America every human being can think for themselves, all people have individual opinions. Regardless of your intentions someone is likely to be offended. So if the question is have I been accused of being offensive to someone, than the answer is yes. But I am going to share a time when I have been offended. My senior year in high school I had a home economics class that was full of students needing extra credits to graduate. Not many actually wanted to get help making life decisions or any input of a positive influence in their life. Out teacher was extremely enthusiastic about teaching and making a difference to these students. I personally have had a number of insignificant tribulations throughout my life that have helped me become who I am today. In class we were discussing how drugs were contaminating it. There are always a few students in high school classes that don’t care too much for what the teacher has to say, they are rebellious to authority. Two bots were being highly disrespectful and laughing, making smart comments about how great they feel when they do drugs. Just the amount of disrespect given to the teacher frustrated me, but the fact that these students thought it was funny to do drugs, and insinuating the teacher was stupid for proving them different, offended me. I got upset and said to them, “Do you think you’re cool for doing drugs? I understand you having your own opinion about it but is it necessary to be so rude”? They of course were not happy with me and began calling me names like “Goody-two-shoes” and”Miss. Priss”. They really believed that I was a studious senior with a perfect home life. I enlightened the class, “I have eight siblings, nine nieces and nephews, my sister was in prison for a year and had a baby with a drug dealer. That man was in jail the first four years of my niece’s life. My brother was on cocaine for three years and my Uncle Tome murdered my Uncle Mike two years ago. They were on cocaine and came home drunk form the bar, then got in an argument and my Uncle Tom beat his brother to death. The next morning when he woke up, he was in jail with no recollection of what occurred the night before. So because of drugs and alcohol my entire family got torn apart”. I was in tears while pouring out my life story and those boys quickly gained more respect for me. I said to them, “I understand if you have horrible home lives, if your family mistreats you, or whatever your strife is, it is possible to learn from it and move on. I am not proud of my family and our issues but I have definitely learned from it and can relate to the people on many different levels now because of it. But please do not disrespect out teacher for showing the effects of drugs and trying to build us into better decision makers”. The boys actually got up and hugged me and we became friendly acquaintances after that.
People tend to get offended easily. I am no exception I take offense to some things I probably shouldn't all the time. There are, however, somethings I get offended at a lot more easily. One of these things is getting yelled at, especially when I don't feel as though I deserve it. Something I always find offensive is when an authority figure starts yelling at you before you've done anything wrong.
More than once I've had an authority figure yell at me, when I didn't think I deserved it. Once we had an assembly at school and the guest speaker starts yelling at us to be respectful and not talk during the assembly because he seemed to know that that is what we were going to do simply because we were disrespectful high school students. Even our teachers got upset at him. He never even gave us a chance to show we were respectful. So, during the assembly if we were respectful he probably assumed it was because of his talk, not because we would have simple been respectful on our own. Not to mention he yelled at the entire student body assuming we were all disrespectful instead of realizing it would probably only be a few students causing problems, ones the teachers usually take care of during the assemblies.
Another time I was yelled at before I had done anything wrong was more recent. We had received a test back and the teacher instructed those of us with high scores, me included, that this didn't mean we could slack off or quit coming to class, just because we did well on one test. I took offensive to this because I was not even considering those things. I felt as though I was getting yelled at and had done nothing wrong yet. The teacher had never even given me a chance. He also probably assumes that I took what he said to heart and thats the only reason I kept going to class, not because I was never considering not going to class or slacking off.
Yelling at someone before they've done anything wrong never gives a person a chance. Also, it is very offensive to me because it means someone is assuming something about me, without letting me show them how I can act without them yelling at me.
[Ashley Zajacs. Submitted 10/8]
“Stop! That’s Offensive”
In the last hundred years, women’s rights have grown by leaps and bounds. From the suffrage movement to female politicians today such as Hilary Clinton, Sarah Palin, and others, a woman’s role in society has been redefined in ways unimaginable a half century ago. Despite this, a lingering sense of sexism with a hint of racism pervades in even the most innocent of places: television cleaning commercials. Although seemingly innocuous, television cleaning commercials are perpetuating the stereotype that it is solely a woman’s job to clean the house.
Swiffer, Glad, Glade, Pledge, and Pine Sol, to name a few, are guilty of advertising with mainly, if not only, women in their commercials. Some may argue that their boyfriend, husband, or son have yet to pick up even their own clothes let alone clean another’s mess, but that statement is ignoring something very important: on this planet of six billion, there are men that clean. However, these men are not represented in the dusty suburban home quickly made new again with the help of the new Swiffer duster. Despite the fact that it is 2008, and women have been and currently are in a position to be president or vice-president of the United States of America, they are apparently still the only ones capable of refreshing the house with a Glade candle.
Perhaps one of the most offensive cleaning commercials is the one in which a plump and authoritative black woman informs her audience that Pine Sol will solve all their cleaning conundrums. At first, one might find the commercial harmless; however, there is a sinister tone of racism afoot. To make a black woman an authority on cleaning is a throwback to the days when they were forced into roles as maids, nannies, and housekeepers. While Pine Sol may very well clean up any mess with nothing short of a miracle, that message can be conveyed without the stereotyping implied.
In another commercial readily transmitted to millions of households a day, a woman is trying out her new Swiffer duster in her extremely dusty vase. Because of the Swiffer’s magical new shape, the woman is able to clean the vase in ways it had never been cleaned before. It is assumed because of his conspicuous absence that her husband or male companion, because he is a man and therefore cannot and does not clean, is unable to unlock the secrets behind the handle with cloth strips attached. Thus, it is left to the woman to continue liberating the house from the evils of dust, a battle she will surely do again another day.
By nature, I am not a clean woman. As I write this, there is a lone leaf on my floor, my trash is overflowing, and every single flat space in my room is covered with my belongings. Just as there are men that clean, there are genuinely women who do so too, stereotypes aside. I do not begrudge these women their excellent habits. I am merely acknowledging, as all should, that “dirt and grime” do not recognize the gender of those cleaning, and neither should we.
[Natalie Krauss. Submitted 10/8]
“That’s Offensive!” Essay Contest
8 October 2008
Perhaps going on a date with someone whose last name is a mystery is already a recipe for disaster. I’m sure that going on a date with an uneducated twenty-two year old Steak and Shake waiter has ‘red flag’ written all over it…especially when he does not even own a car, so I am the one left to drive us to our destination. Manly. At least he paid for the bowling, probably using the tips from young ladies, who were tricked by his flirtatious serving into paying for our lovely date, as well as his alcoholism.
Before we started our first game, Mr. Manners decided that he HAD to answer a phone call from his friend. I sat awkwardly as he jawed for a good twenty minutes. After I made some snide remarks about his rudeness, followed by his lackluster apology, we began to bowl.
Apparently, he did not like the dish I served- excellence with a side of heckling and some extra sass. In fact, after a comment about his "skill”, my date dared to utter a phrase that will forever be burned into my memory. He turned to me and said, “Your sarcasm isn’t very becoming.” I was completely taken aback, not only because he used the word ‘becoming’ in the right context, but also because I was actually offended. My sarcasm and dry wit are two of my favorite things. This man thought it would be acceptable to insult my personality on our first date.
After bowling, I decided I had to go home and “study” so I dropped him off at his apartment. He looked at me before getting out of the car, smiled, and asked if I wanted to come inside for a little while. In his mind I must have had no moral character and poor study habits, since he actually thought I would spend some "alone" time with him on a school night. I mumbled a quick ‘thanks but no thanks’ before speeding off into the night.
I have never had a more offensive date. It was not the fact that he chatted on his phone or even that he questioned my morals; ultimately, it was his comment about my sense of humor that completely ruled out any chance of a second date. Maybe I learned a lesson: to only go on dates with someone whose full name I know.
[Jenna Kamphaus. Submitted 10/9]
October 9, 2008
Have you ever been accused of doing something that you have never done or wouldn’t think of doing? Being accused of something can have a big impact on someone’s life. It is apart of life. It goes along with judging people and making assumptions of others. It ranges with every age, any size and any social class. An example of this would be when I was nine-year old.
It was the holiday season. My family and I went Christmas shopping. I was nine years old and my brother was seven years old. We were fifteen minutes away from home at a shopping strip. It had a variety of stores. My mom and dad needed to find some gifts for some of the people at their work. We walked into Bath and Body Works. My parents were looking around. My brother and I took a look around the store but got bored. So we asked mom and dad if we could walk to Hobby Town USA, which was about three stores down. Mom and Dad said it was okay.
Kyle and I walked out of the store and made our way down to Hobby Town USA. We were looking around the store at all of the items such as the airplanes, cars and art. We asked to look at some of the pokemon cards. So the man with short dark hair with spots of gray said okay. His soft, olive hand reached down and pulled out the pokemon cards. Kyle and I took turns looking at each of the cards. We told each other which ones we want. After looking at them we told the man we were done. We walked out of the store. We stopped to look at a sign we saw in the window. Then we started to walk back to Bath and Body Works, where our parents were. I heard a deep “ Hey!” Then the deep voice said “ Do you have anything in your pockets?” My brother and I looked at each other with fear. Then we said in unison “ No!” The man then turned around and walked back into the store. Then Kyle and I continued to walk back. But this time faster. We also talked about what had just happened. I was scared and wanted to cry. I kept thinking, “ I would never do anything like that. I know it is wrong. Why were we just accused of taking something?”
When we got back to Bath and Body Works, we told our parents what had just happened. My dad then said, “ I know you wouldn’t do anything like that, we know you didn’t take anything.” I then said, “ I never want to go back to that store ever again!” Mom said, “ Just stay here, with us.” So we stayed with mom and dad until we were ready to go home.
Since that has happened, I have not been back to the store. I thought it was stupid that someone would accuse two young kids of stealing something. Now that I think back, we didn’t look suspicious or give him a reason to accuse us.
Overall, people should think about what they are going to say or do before making assumptions. Assumptions and judgements offend people and certain things that are done or said are taken the wrong way. It is best if we do our best to think before we act.
[Jessica Selzer. Submitted 10/9]
More Informed, Less Knowledgeable
Even being at college, it is hard to avoid offensive behavior. This is the time when people are maturing, really becoming themselves, and finding a career – or is it? We are all adults attending and working at Muskingum College, aren’t we? There is one attitude that is more offensive than anything else: ignorance mixed with just a dab of racism. The world is changing – improving even. Then why are people acting just as they always have. This may be the new technologically advanced-information stage of society, but that does not make the humans living here more intelligent or any better.
By now one must be wondering what I am talking about. If society is really shifting towards better days, then why are there still people (students, none-the-less) that believe it is civil and decent to say, “Heil Hitler,” and perform the Nazi salute to a German exchange student? Ignorance is not bliss. Ignorance just makes the rest of us look like buffoons. And people wonder why America is not appreciated as much as “we” all believe it should be.
Now, I am not saying that people are not entitled to their opinions. Humans can think whatever they choose – that is part of the luxury of being a human being. Society has grown so much, even just over the past hundred years, that the general public should realize that it is not okay to act certain ways in public, or even sometimes in privacy. This is not a time period where is it cool to be racist or prejudice loudly and obnoxiously.
College students learn about history, society and the world around them. College students should have some common knowledge then. Germans are not proud of what happened before and during World War II. The German exchange students here are just trying to fit in and get an education like the rest of the international students and American students. If a stunt like that had been performed in Germany, the person would have either been immediately arrested or worse. Germany does not condone Nazism, and neither should anyone else.
Most people learn about all of the horrors and tragedies coinciding with war and Nazism starting in grade school: World War II, concentration camps, all of the gore and death. This is not a laughing matter. Offensive behavior, such as this, needs to be downtrodden at our school and around the world. Even if it will never be possible to stop all racism and prejudice, it is very simple for individuals to let people know that it is not okay to act like that – not okay to Nazi salute a German exchange student here or anywhere else.
[Allison Gooding. Submitted 10/9]
There are many four letter words that are used that many
people would fund offensive, and are not even liked. But
what about the words that are not considered to be
“bad?” are some of these words still offensive? People
use all kinds of words to bring down others. In the world we
now live in, these words are used outside of their context.
People do not know the meanings of the words they are using,
or they simply do not use them the proper way. Using
language as a name calling technique is the one thing I find
The word retard is one word that people should never used.
They have even changed the label of mental retardation to
cognitive disability to keep people from using the word.
When I hear someone say the word retard I want to slap them
across the back of their heads. What gives them the power to
call someone else a retard? The people who use the word do
not even know the full definition of the word. One of the
definitions from dictionary.com states that retard means to
be delayed. When people use the word out of context, they
are usually referring to someone they do not like or
something they do not like. Most of the time, they say that
something is “retarded.”
Another word that is used pretty much the same way is gay.
People use the word gay to describe something or someone
they do not like. In my senior English class, one of my
fellow students used that word to describe an assignment
that we had to do. My teacher went off on that student
telling them that they should not use words like that. When
words are used like that, students who might actually be
how it affects others. As the new generation, we need to
teach children what words to use and which ones not to use.
As a teacher, I will make sure that my students understand
what words are acceptable to use and which ones they are not
allowed to say. This would be very important as I am going
into special education and may even have students who could
have a cognitive disability. If someone uses the word retard
in the class, that particular student would become very
What I d o not understand is how people can use words like
these and not even care about others feelings. How do they
not care about hurting someone’s feelings? If we do not
take charge of the younger children, the name calling and
bullying will just continue to get worse.
[Sara Penn. Submitted 10/9]
Sara Penn Stop! That’s Offensive! October 9, 2008
Many people have different ideas on what being offensive means. Some may think that someone burping without saying, “Excuse me” is offensive. Some people believe that certain gestures and postures are offensive. Others may think that even wearing a short mini skirt or a shit that shows too much cleavage is offensive. When you get down to the bottom of all solutions, there are two prime examples where everyone sees the truth in being offensive. The two examples that can show offensive behavior are through words, and through religion.
Words are a key part of life. They can be used for empowerment, or they can be used to destroy. In today’s society, we have brought offensive words into our own daily language. Girls now call each other “sluts” and “whores” like they are nicknames. Boys will go around and through the word “fag” around. This is offensive to not only the people around them, but to the gay and lesbian community.
Religion has a huge part in what you grow up to believe is offensive or not. In Christianity it is a commandment to not take the name of the Lord our God in vain. Everyone is guilty of this at some point in their life. In many strict religions, such as Islam, it is offensive if women show their face in society. They believe that women are out to tempt men into bad things so they are hidden in society by hijabs. In strict Judaism communities, women and men can’t even be seen with each other, and women are treated like property.
Words are always constantly changing into new slang, but it may not be just for everyone’s ear. Religion can be offensive to the “untrained eye”. As a Catholic woman, I find it offensive how women are treated in some religions. We are our own judge on what we find offensive. Take the time to walk in another person’s shoes before you mark it as offensive.
[Hugh Martin. Submitted 10/9]
Word Count: 1,001
My friend Tom is addicted to texting. He texts so often that it’s rare to find him without his cell phone in his hands, without his head angled down, staring into the phone’s screen. One night in my apartment I was hanging out with him and three other friends. All of them were texting. To prove a point and to also just tease them, I quickly seized each of their phones and threw them into another room. First they laughed about it, but then they didn’t know what to do. They didn’t know what to look at and their hands sat on their laps, empty and strange without a phone.
As a senior in college, my generation’s obsession with communication devices scares me. By no means am I saying that I am not guilty, and that these devices don’t have their benefits, but the cons greatly outweigh the pros. The cell phone and specifically text messaging has become almost as addictive as a smoker holding a cigarette, or an alcoholic holding a bottle of beer. Obviously, not only is texting rude and offensive while in conversation with an actual person in front of you, but it also can be dangerous in situations like driving and even walking. What scares me though is deeper and I think, much more deadly: it is the dependence on the phone and how it detaches us from reality.
No longer can some of my friends be alone. They are so uncomfortable with their own thoughts and their own presences that they turn to their phones for companionship. Their cell phone has morphed into a person. At bars, clubs, parties, restaurants, it is normal for someone left alone to gaze into their cell phone. They hold it like it’s the hand of a friend. It makes them feel falsely secure, falsely with someone else. I know sometimes the messages can be important. But if something is that important, one would at least discuss it over the phone, or even better—God forbid—face to face.
Slowly and terrifyingly, the world is turning into a series of screens: television, computer, phone. As some of us wander from our home to work or school, we hardly see the actual world or the actual people in front of us. We go from computer screen to phone screen to television screen in all different orders. Some days, as my friends or others text, it’s difficult to get them to look at me as we talk. The actual, physical person is always second to the cell phone’s small screen. As we text, we slowly forget the real people around us. We forget eye contact, body language, and genuine listening.
Although the influx of communication devices, especially the Internet, has, as Thomas Friedman says, “made the world flat,” at the same time, these devices are isolating each one of us not only from real contact with each other, but also the tangible world itself. For many of my friends and even myself, the cell phone, along with the Internet, has slowly transformed into a daily necessity that pulls me away from tasks that I should be doing such as homework, writing, reading, actually going out and socializing face to face. We have become slaves to this screen of impersonal, robotic communication.
Texting, in many ways, pushes humanity’s communication skills backwards. No longer do we have to confront someone in person or over the phone where they at least have a voice, but we can now weakly type a message and send it off, not having to worry about the recipient’s actions or feelings upon receiving the message. Texting makes us braver. What is difficult to say to someone in person or over the phone, we can sometimes say in a text. Slowly, a person’s capability to talk, honestly and eye to eye, is diminishing because of the effortless, mindless act of texting. A person learns how to interact, communicate, argue and be assertive through years of adolescence, through years of dealing with friends, parents, teachers. Texting allows us to avoid this important part of growing up, of learning how to communicate.
By no means do I wish to remove texting completely from our lives (although this might be a good thing), but it should be used in moderation. Not only cell phones, but the Internet, too. I know many others, including myself, just simply need to exercise more discipline when using these devices. For some people though, texting controls not only much of their day, but even much of their life. I know some people who sleep next to their cell phone or Blackberry, as if it’s a small child that could possibly cry out, needing immediate attention.
As my friends like Tom become more obsessed and ultimately consumed by texting, I fear the direction humanity is heading. The problems are obvious: it’s rude to text when someone else is speaking; it’s dangerous to text when you’re driving or doing something else that warrants complete attention; however, the biggest threat I see from texting is how it creates a shell, almost a force-field around the person doing it. A person can walk, drive and move through the world without ever looking up and seeing something or someone real. They pay full attention to the phone. Rarely will they look up to see what’s in front of them, what lies ahead.
Not only do we need to keep our heads up to see what’s happening in front of us, but metaphorically, we need to keep our heads up more in general, simply to see what’s happening in our world. Texting creates a comfortable shell deflecting reality. None of us have all the answers, but I am sure though, that we should spend as little time as possible staring into the screen of a phone. In 1980, John Lennon sang that “Life is what happens to you while you’re busy making other plans,” but today, it just as so could happen while you’re busy texting.
[Name withheld at author’s request. Submitted 10/9]
There is an ever-widening gap between my peers and I. I no longer feel completely at home among many of those my age, even those involved closely in the same activities as myself. I used to be an extrovert, but the last few years have turned me inward. Among many people my age, there seems to be a lack of manners present, a lack of concern for who may be listening, a lack of tact. I don’t understand this. I was brought up to be respectful to those around me, especially females and elders, but many people my age don’t seem too concerned about that. It seems that only if someone is directly watching them do they mind their manners and hold their tongues, and that only applies when the person watching may enforce consequences for the poor behavior.
If memory serves me correctly, I used to take part. In fact, I’m sure of it. Taking part was never a strength of mine, but I used to jump in, just for the hell of it, just to fit in. I also used to think it was funny. I also used to not care who was listening because, even if someone was, it didn’t affect me. But something in me has changed. I don’t take part anymore. I don’t think it’s funny anymore. I do care now. Apparently, I’ve done some growing up in college.
“Guys being guys” is really the best way to put it. It’s easy and truthful to say that pretty much every male has, at one time or another, taken part in it, but lately, when I do hear guys taking part in it, it bothers me. It bothers me because they don’t care who is listening.
To be a bit more concrete, what I mean when I say “guys being guys” can be described as offensive language and subject matter used in small groups, what some might call “locker room talk.” This may simply be using foul language to enhance a rather commonplace story, or it could be vivid descriptions about encounters with girlfriends or flings from previous weekends. Let me be clear, however, it is not typically the content of these discussions alone that directly affects me (although some of it is incredibly offensive), but more so the increasingly public locations of where I have noticed these conversations taking place more recently.
Certainly there are ways in which “guys being guys” doesn’t have to be offensive, or at least it can be contained in environments where it is not offensive to anyone. What digs at me the most, however, is when I hear a group of guys, or anyone for that matter, discussing something inappropriate within earshot of someone who would be greatly offended. This lack of tact on the part of many young people today has become increasingly offensive to me, which tells me that it should be incredibly offensive to those who overhear it without a desire to do so.
Recently, I can’t count the number of times I have been at the lunch table with a group of peers and have been embarrassed by the conduct and volume of those “friends.” As mentioned above, whether it be graphic discussions of “flings” from the weekend, or simply a harmless story with the F-bomb tossed in every few words, I am shocked at the way they don’t care if one of the Dining Services Workers or Residential Life staff members may be near enough to hear. It seems as if being in a peer group gives that group the illusion that they cannot be heard by anyone else, as if that synergy puts an impenetrable bubble around their lunch table or whatever formation and situation it may be.
In an effort to avoid hypocrisy, I openly admit that I find shows like South Park and movies like Anchorman absolutely fantastic, and I appreciate the timing and comedy in the immense amounts of swearing and vulgar comments within those examples. What is different about those, however, is that they are witnessed in a context of their own. Any sane person would not watch South Park with his or her parents, so why then, would someone swear and be vulgar on that same level when parents of other young men and women-parents just like their own-are in audible distance? I just don’t get it.
Another ongoing example is after sport practice (I don’t want to be too specific here). As we end practice and stay around to watch another competition starting, I find myself incredibly embarrassed to hear the things that come out of my peers’ mouths with parents, friends, and relatives of those competing nearby. For example, "FMK" is a game that recently came into my scope of experience in the world. This is a game where a person rambles off three names of their choosing, and the person asked has to decide which one he/she would fuck (F), which one to marry (M), and which one they would kill (K). Witnessing this game, I did see the laughs that it produced among the group, but what I couldn’t believe was the volume at which they were discussing this game with unfamiliar adults literally a few yards away! I would have left that group immediately, had it been an option, but I was required to stay by higher power, as we were supposed to be watching and supporting another Muskie team. I have not been that embarrassed by, and ashamed of, my peers in a long, long time.
I’ve come to be a believer that one should always “be aware of your surroundings,” and it absolutely shocks and horrifies me how little that tact is displayed on the part of my peers. As I said, I don’t claim to be perfect. I swear casually. I’ve used vulgar terms in abundance before. But when it comes down to it, I would never do so near anyone who would possibly be offended by it. I’ll admit it, I’m no angel myself, but honestly, there’s a time and place for it. Frankly, it offends me.
[Laura Barkalow. Submitted 10/9]
“Stop that’s Offensive”
My Pet Peeve of Professors’ Pet Peeves
A pet peeve of mine is when professors are overly strict in their classrooms, especially when they single out students in front of the class. I understand that a professor has the ability to establish his/her own rules for the classroom, but forbidding a student to walk into class a minute late or to step out of class once the lecture has started is extreme.
I know of at least one professor on this campus that despises when students walk into class late and has said on more than one occasion that he wishes he had the authority to lock the door and not allow students in late. I understand that it is irritating and can disrupt the class when someone walks in late. However, for a professor to go off on a ten-minute tangent about walking into class late right after someone does just that, blatantly singles out that individual. The extent of the disruption when a student walks in late would be a few heads turning, but when a professor goes off on a rant they waste their own class time and cease to do their job: educating students.
I have recently encountered a professor here at Muskingum that became extremely upset when a student stepped out of class. The professor went as far as to stop mid-lecture to point out to the class how rude it is to get up and walk out during class. Everyone is entitled to their own feelings, but there is a time and place to share those feelings. When a student steps out of class, there could be numerous reasons why. If a student becomes ill, whether with an upset stomach, a coughing attack, or another medical reason, it is acceptable to leave class and they should not be criticized for doing so. Another situation that comes to mind is that more than one class taught here at Muskingum covers sensitive topics. When discussing sensitive issues, keep in mind that a student sitting through that lecture might have been directly affected by that topic or one of a similar nature. In most cases, a professor won’t know why a student steps out of class when they do so. If the professor has a problem they should go directly to the student to discuss the situation rather than rant to the class when they are unaware of the circumstances.
I realize that everyone has pet peeves, and these instances are examples of various professors’ pet peeves. Having a pet peeve is not a problem, but how you react to it when it occurs can be a problem. No matter what the circumstances of a situation, I believe it is unprofessional to discuss, or “call out,” a student in class in front of their peers. If you want to discuss their behavior, do so after class, rather than in front of the class. We have been studying management behavior in my Organizational Management class, and one of the things we have talked about is that managers should criticize individuals behind closed doors. I believe this applies to faculty and student issues as well.
Ultimately we are all adults here and deserve to be treated with the respect as such. The purpose of college is to educate students and prepare them for their futures. In the real world, there would be consequences for coming to work late or stepping out of a meeting, but it is the management’s responsibility to find out the circumstances and take appropriate measures. The same can be done in the college setting. A professor can and should set forth their expectations on the first day of class and in the syllabus. If he or she has a pet peeve, tell the students what it is on the first day of class, and then if it becomes a problem later in the semester, address the individual personally.
[Name withheld at author’s request. Submitted 10/9]
Stop That’s Offensive
Stop! I’ve just got to ask, do we really need to see your underwear? You know who you are. Boxers, briefs, and mesh shorts are constantly seen hanging out. Even on our campus students are found showing off their undies. This offense is not reserved to one sex, both can be found equally guilty. Females can be found with low cut jeans that proudly display this scene or with clothes so tight they scream, look at what I’m not hiding; briefs, bikini, thong, or nothing at all. Males or females can proudly show off their underwear by allowing the pants; type does not seem to matter; to hang down several inches below the undergarment of choice.
Is this just some sort of fad or just plain laziness? Is it supposed to make some sort of statement? Maybe, it’s supposed to be sexy like, wanna see more? Well excuse me for saying NO! Don’t get me wrong here, I am not advocating for uniforms. But could we at least act like maybe we are becoming adults and stop this entire childish underwear preview. It definitely doses not contribute to a learning environment. I mean come on are you going to dress like that for your job interview? Well I guess if you are going to work for Hanes, it might help if you make sure the interviewer sees that, they’ve got our Hanes on you. But what’s really offensive is when everyone just acts like they didn’t see any under garments hanging out or down, I mean how could you miss it?
[Khrista Martin. Submitted 10/10]
Essay: “Stop That’s Offensive”
October 10, 2008
Stop and Smell the Flowers
We have all heard this phrase before. I want to share with you my epiphany of stopping and smelling the flowers, and how this has become my life long philosophy. The academic year of spring 2008 was coming to an end. I had worked hard throughout the semester, working on a lot of side projects. The hustle of the year was beginning to wear on my mind and body; it had been an intense semester.
It was a Thursday in the late afternoon. I was on my way back to Kelley Hall from the quad; it was a nice evening with warm gusts of spring air. The kind that makes you feel happy to be alive. I walked across the bridge watching the ducks and the miniature willows nestling against one another. The sounds of their leaves made the atmosphere peaceful. I sat down beside them. The sun was of an orange purple color that reflected off the water. Soon after it was hidden behind the gym and I was becoming chilled. I rose up and wished the ducks a good evening and began my hike to the top of Patton hill.
I continued back to Kelley Hall and I soon noticed the beautiful large flowering shrub in front of the buildings’ steps. It was about seven feet high and produces pure white blossoms that draw in the bees. When walking past it my eyes became glassy, I felt the knot in my throat begin to swell and my hands became sweaty. I had realized that for two years I never took the time to smell the flowers or even appreciate the importance of every organism. It was the most overwhelming, beautiful experience I had ever witnessed in my life. It was from that single moment that I came to the realization that life is breathtaking.
Sometimes it just takes someone to stop and smell the flowers to appreciate life. Life is crazy and hectic from day to day. Humans should subscribe to this beautiful simplicity. This is the kind of life I feel humans should strive for. This is how I am trying to live my life, taking care of the earth and respecting its intrinsic value.
[Andrea Richard. Submitted 10/10]
“Stop! That’s Offensive” Essay Contest
10 October 2008
Eradicating the Disease
Ralph Waldo Emerson said, “Always do what you are afraid to do.” One of the most hideous things in this world is fear. It would be impossible to calculate all of the times that fears have stopped someone from achieving a dream. People often refer to the Walt Disney notions that “dreams come true” and indeed dreams do often come true, but the ones that don’t, have one source. That source is fear. Fear is a wall, a cage, a trap. To escape one must fight and believe. How often it seems that fear is the one factor of resistance against dreams. For this reason, fear is offensive.
It has been said that fear is a choice, but it is more likely that fear is a disease. Much like a common cold, fear is easy to catch and hard to get over. A person begins life with a belief that he or she could conquer the world, but soon, other people begin to relay their broken dreams and missed opportunities and the fear starts. It begins as a small worry, a seed, but the more the thought of not achieving or succeeding creeps into the mind, the more fear grows. As time goes on, fear waxes and wanes and life changes, but the persistent thought of those missed dreams will never leave. Much later in life, a person will think, “What could I have achieved, if I wasn’t afraid?” Then something new will occur, regret. Fear and regret are the two forces that keep people chained to the ground where no one can fly.
Though most people see fear as normal, the actuality of it is offensive. To believe that after countless hours of work or sweat or tears, fear could stop success is appalling. It would be offensive to believe that fear has any control over the outcome of the day, but in reality, it often does. Fear stands in the way of dreams, success, and even love. This disease conquers even the strongest of people and tramples over the biggest of the defenses. There is however a cure. The cure to fear is courage and in order to gain courage, one must have faith, belief in one’s self, and inner strength. There has to be a desire present, one that pushes beyond everything else and decides that dreams are more important than fear. The greatest things in life are not the moments thrown away by fear but the moments when courage and desire overshadow fear.
When a disease is present in the body, the best thing to do is fight it. Fear is the disease plaguing this generation. The fear needs to be eradicated. William Butler Yeats said, “In dreams begins responsibility.” In order to be worthy of the dreams one has, one must take on the responsibility of following through. One cannot let fear intrude in this responsibility because when fear is allowed to be present, it always wants control. Tom Hopkins said it best, “Do what you fear most and you control fear.” Fear is an offense to dreams but when fears are conquered, there is no greater victory.
[Jake Caslow. Submitted 10/10]
A Lesson in Growing Up
My mom and dad have always been strict about not only how we present ourselves, but also about how we perceive other people that we come across in our lives. I was raised to always see the best in people. To overlook whatever oddities that they may have and to simply look beneath the surface of their outward appearance. Never to judge, have condescending thoughts towards, or act to out against what others may feel as an outcast.
As I journeyed from being homeschooled into the realm of a public high school, I was soon the object of my lessons. I was the outcast, the one being judged, and was the one walking through the dimly lit hallways with people cracking jokes at my expense. I was appalled, shocked, and even a little worried that I would never be able to be the one who people looked up to. I decided that maybe if I joined the football team, that I might be able to gain some sort of respect. Or in the least, not be the lonely, worried boy walking through the hallways alone. By my senior year, we created a program that the seniors adopted a freshman to teach them how to cope with everything, as well as watching their backs. I finally had my shot, but instead of just a single freshman, I ended up with seven to share the same exact things that my parents taught me so many years before. I shared my stories of how I was a nobody, but by the time I had worked hard and learned lessons the hard way, that I came into a respectable position among students.
This was a lesson in growing up because when children are secluded from the harsh reality, their inner innocence is bottled up, with a mild stopper at the open end. But when we are subjected to reality, and how just the simple thoughts can mislead even the most phenomenally innocent astray. I learned the hard way, and in a short time I might add, on how those that have been exposed to the real world, can easily affect the innocent. My morals and philosophies did not change, but my perception of how the world works, most certainly did.