Monday, January 30, 2012

People who like being offended get offended

Late night comedian Jay Leno has been targeted in a new lawsuit after comparing the holiest Sikh shrine, the Golden Temple of Amritsar, to Mitt Romney's vacation home.
The remark during a skit on the 'Tonight Show with Jay Leno,' when the TV host introduces 'a behind the scenes look at all the presidential candidates' homes was condemned by India. But religious organiser Dr Randeep Dhillon, from California, has gone a step further, claiming Leno libelled the Sikh religion with his offence.
According to court documents filed in Los Angeles Superior Court on Tuesday obtained by TheWrap, Mr Dhillon, who does business as Bol Punjabi All Regions Community Organization, claims Leno 'hurt the sentiments of all Sikh people in addition to those of the plaintiff' with the joke.
He also claims the remark 'clearly exposes plaintiff, other Sikhs and their religion to hatred, contempt, ridicule and obloquy because it falsely portrays the holiest place in the Sikh religion as a vacation resort owned by a non-Sikh'.
Overseas Indian Affairs Minister Vayalar Ravi told reporters: 'It is quite unfortunate and quite objectionable that such a comment has been made after showing the Golden Temple.'
Mr Ravi said the Indian embassy would take up the matter with the US state department, the Press Trust of India reported.
He said: 'The Golden Temple is the Sikh community's most sacred place... The American government should also look at this kind of thing.
'Freedom does not mean hurting the sentiments of others... This is not acceptable to us and we take a very strong objection for such a display.'
In response the members of the US Sikh community have now launched an online petition, called 'Stop defaming Sikhs and using derogatory remarks against the Sikh shrines.' Over 3,700 people have added their names to support the cause. The petition says Leno has been guilty of derogatory comments about Sikhs before and that 'Jay Leno's racist comments need to be stopped right here'.
Simran Kaur, a petition signatory wrote: 'Jay Leno must apologise and promise not to make any direct or oblique references to Sikhs or their places of worship.'[Daily Mail]
Hopefully, the petitioners will achieve their apparent objective to ensure that no one in the world ever talks about Sikhism at all, in order to make sure that no Sikh is ever offended. Either that, or we just stop telling jokes from now on. It's too risky.

But seriously... Leno's joke, which was mildly amusing and would have probably been forgotten 10 seconds later by most viewers, was not about Sikhs at all. It was about Romney and his outrageous wealth. The fact that it involved an image of the Golden Temple is immaterial, because virtually no one watching the show would know what the building was. I'd wager less than 5% of the watching public would see that image and think, "Oh, that's the Sikh temple in Amritsar."

So if virtually no one knew it was a Sikh temple, then how is it exposing Sikhs to ridicule or contempt? The irony of Randeep Dhillon's claims is obviously lost on him, because the only thing bringing ridicule and contempt on Sikhs is this lawsuit and diplomatic action, which simply says to the world that Sikhs have no sense of humour and are unnecessarily sensitive.

I should point out that I don't think the majority of Sikhs would really take offense to the Leno bit. But within any population there are those who don't have any meaning in their life unless they can get outraged about some perceived injustice, and who then take it upon themselves to make the rest of their community look bad.

You sometimes hear Christians complain that activists, artists and humorists are quick to attack or poke fun at Christianity, while not having the guts to apply the same treatment to other religions (particularly Islam). And that's a fair point, but the fact that this happens is actually a compliment to Christianity. When someone mocks Jesus or the clergy, no one gets murdered in retaliation, and no one tries to sue for the hurt feelings of Christians worldwide. Most Christians just shrug their shoulders and forget about it, and well they should. It's a grown-up response.

Some things in life are genuinely offensive. But just because you are offended by something, doesn't necessarily mean you are right to be offended. When everything is offensive, then nothing is offensive; the labelling of Leno's joke as "racist" does little but devalues the meaning of the word. Outrage at insignificant things means that folks will stop listening to you next time you complain about something legitimately offensive.

Most of the time, flying into a rage at every perceived insult just makes you look like a dick.

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