Is It Time for a Return to Common Sense?
Scholars of postmodernism tell me there is now no such thing as common sense. Perhaps they are right. I don’t see a lot of it. And I don’t expect “my common sense” to be shared by all. I’m elderly now and some of my common sense is probably outdated. Nevertheless, I believe there are some things that all mature, thinking individuals should know intuitively—even in this confused and confusing culture that is America today.
Here are some things I think common sense should tell us. At least my common sense tells me these things. I don’t think they need to be defended with any “high falutin,” ivory tower, elitist philosophy. These are things I believe just are the case and ought to be recognized as such by everyone.
*Sidebar: The opinions expressed here are my own (or those of the guest writer); I do not speak for any other person, group or organization; nor do I imply that the opinions expressed here reflect those of any other person, group or organization unless I say so specifically. Before commenting read the entire post and the “Note to commenters” at its end.*
First, there is a difference between making someone feel “uncomfortable” and sexually assaulting them or even harassing them. When you are made to feel uncomfortable by someone’s non-violent, non-sexual touch, tell them so and expect them to back off and respect the boundary you have set. Don’t expect everyone to understand boundaries in the same way. And physical and verbal boundaries constantly shift—depending on generation and even geography.
Second, there is a natural human tendency to “pile on” a person perceived as strange, different, insensitive, awkward. Such people may not be malevolent in any way, and they should not necessarily be subjected to the same criticism as others who are malevolent. Teaching them how to be sensitive and, for example, avoid getting in others’ private spaces is the right way to treat them. But to accuse a person of “sexism” and “misogyny” only for non-violent, non-sexual boundary ignorance is going too far. It appears like “piling on”—to use an old phrase from the playground.
Third, a very valid and important movement for liberation from oppression can be undermined by silly accusations, by stretching terms like “violent,” “racist,” “sexist,” “misogynist,” “toxic masculinity,” etc., too far and too thin. Eventually people begin not to take the labels as seriously as they should.
Fourth, everyone who makes another person uncomfortable, especially with unwelcome touching or belittling or offensive language, must apologize and change their ways—after the affront is explained to them. It should not be assumed that everyone always already knows what’s appropriate and what’s not appropriate. Of course that does not apply to overt acts or words of aggression or discrimination. But what constitutes a “micro-aggression” is still being worked out and many people still are learning. Give them room to learn. Don’t rush to punish.
Fifth, movements like Black Lives Matter and #MeToo are absolutely crucial to our society’s move towards fairness, peace, justice and equality. But they should not be confused and made confusing by inclusion of so many other issues that they lose their focus. Some (not all) proponents of both movements are making use of their platforms to promote other agendas. That’s not helpful to these extremely important, even necessary, movements for justice.
So, now, because I may have confused some readers who wonder if I’m beating around a bush and not being clear myself, I will offer a case study of what I’m talking about. So far I have not heard or read any accusation against former Vice President Joe Biden that makes me think he is unqualified to run for president or serve in that highest office of our land. I do think he has boundary issues and needs someone to come alongside of him and teach him about contemporary boundaries when it comes to touching women even in a non-sexual way. He is awkward and insensitive. He needs help in that area. But I don’t think he is a sexist or misogynist just because of that. And I think using such loaded terms about the reported incidents robs them of their punch. They should be reserved for real sexists and misogynists of which there are plenty.
*Note to commenters: This blog is not a discussion board; please respond with a question or comment only to me. If you do not share my evangelical Christian perspective (very broadly defined), feel free to ask a question for clarification, but know that this is not a space for debating incommensurate perspectives/worldviews. In any case, know that there is no guarantee that your question or comment will be posted by the moderator or answered by the writer. If you hope for your question or comment to appear here and be answered or responded to, make sure it is civil, respectful, and “on topic.” Do not comment if you have not read the entire post and do not misrepresent what it says. Keep any comment (including questions) to minimal length; do not post essays, sermons or testimonies here. Do not post links to internet sites here. This is a space for expressions of the blogger’s (or guest writers’) opinions and constructive dialogue among evangelical Christians (very broadly defined).