THE LIBERTARIAN ENTERPRISE
Number 833, August 9, 2015
While the battle for equality before the
law was one of the most important political
revolutions in history, we were a nicer people
when we were free to offend one another.
Reprinted from Issue 743, October 27, 2013
Good Offenses Make good Neighbors
Attribute to L. Neil Smith's The Libertarian Enterprise
There are, this very minute, a myriad of imperious directives circulating on the Internet, with regard to the official, proper, respectful, and, above everything, politically correct observance of Halloween.
Elementary, middle, and high school principals, deans and student committees in what we jokingly call higher education, publications on the gooshy Hubert Humphrey left, have issued uncountable "thou shalt nots" concerning what kinds of costumes are "appropriate" and what are not.
That's why I call them "Notsies".
These are the drooling morons—mostly white-bread "progressives"—who insist that, if you decide to honor an ethnic group, or maybe borrow a little of their juju, by naming your athletic organization after them—even if the ethnic group in question states clearly that they do not mind, you have committed an offense, for which you must be severely punished by the death of a thousand pecky little liberal sound-bites.
First and foremost, Halloweenwise, you may not dress up, however admiringly and respectfully, as a member of the Negro race, black-face being an ultimate anathema. I find this disappointing, as I had hoped to go to a party someday, dressed up as Walter Williams, Tom Sowell, or my friend Libertarian Party Vice Presidential candidate Dick Boddie.
You may not dress up as either kind of Indian, the sort with turbans or with feathers, although folks from the Asian subcontinent are making more and more valuable contributions to our culture and deserve to be honored, and, as every anthropologist and paleontologist knows (but is afraid to say) there's no such thing as a "native American".
Likewise, you may not dress up as a cowboy (although like many Westerners I tend to do that every other day of the year) because that might offend Indians of the feathered sort, and I suppose, with regard to the other sort, a 19th century British Army outfit is right out, as well.
We are warned not to dress in any way that invokes the notion of crime, or of professional sex-work. So it's clear that dressing as a gangster, a policeman, or a liberal arts professor or news-caster is prohibited.
You may not dress up as a Roman Catholic priest because it might offend molested acolytes and choir-boys. Neither may you dress up like a nun because ... well ... even nuns don't dress up like nuns any more.
You may not dress up as a witch—one of the staples of Halloween constumery—because it might somehow offend Wiccans or ugly women or something. Instead, watch the Annual Nose-Wart Telethon and contribute generously.
Furthermore, you may not dress up as a ghost, as doing so might offend the dead. (Actually, I made that one up, but it's certainly no sillier than any other ridiculous decree that these simpletons are issuing.)
There are many reasons for choosing whatever costume you wish to wear. One of them, as I've said, is to recognize and honor (or dishonor) celebrities, politicians, and others that you may like or dislike. You could dress up as the Wright Brothers, Charles Lindbergh, or Amelia Earhart if you were certain it wouldn't offend pioneer aviators. Plenty of individuals dressed up like Richard Nixon in the day.
As soon as I was capable of thinking about things historically, I realized that Halloween, once the evening before a religious holiday most people don't celebrate or remember any more, had become a moment to make light of things that used to frighten our species, of ancient and debilitating superstitions we have discarded that held humankind and civilization back for thousands of years until being vanquished by daring individuals like Charles Darwin and Thomas Edison and Richard Dawkins.
Halloween is a moment to look Death in the face—and spit.
So we gleefully attire ourselves as departed spirits, specific or generic, as zombies, who are enjoying entirely too much popularity, as Frankenstein's monster, as Dracula (even at the dire risk of offending Transylvanians) and as werewolves. We dress up as lions and tigers and bears.
Speaking of discarded superstitions, many of my readers wouldn't really want to know what kind of costumes I'd like most to see on Halloween. Aside from various religious figures, from Dagon, through Jupiter, to more modern Imaginary Playmates (not excluding Cthulhu and the Flying Spaghetti Monster), I wonder how you'd go about dressing as a "progressive", a tree-hugger (bring your own tree?), or a global warmista. I once dressed normally, carrying a big box of Fruity Pebbles into which I'd plunged a big plastic dagger: I was a cereal killer.
Today, that would probably offend gay gelogists.
I recall in the 1950s (I am a 1946 Baby Boomer) my little brother and I trudging through the October cold and dark to collect tribute from neighborhoods for miles around, borrowing a phone to call home for a ride when we were finished. The haul was measurable in bushels, and it was safe, because in those days, if some cetin molested a child, they'd find his mangled body in an irrigation ditch the next day.
I have heard purveyors of political correctness ("carriers" might be a more accurate word) proclaim that their concerns take precedence, even over the First Amendment. But I have a news flash for them: the Bill of Rights trumps every other consideration, and I will cheerfully go to war—or to court—to defend that simple, undeniable truth. In these times of inflation, I estimate that my right to free speech is worth at least eleven figures; how about we make it a nice, round $50,000,000,000?
Which brings me to the bottom line. My bottom line, anyway. I was brought up to believe I was Polish, and was subjected to every kind of Polack joke imaginable. I was not psychologically damaged, or even annoyed by jokes like that—I laughed at them, collected them, and passed them on—because they were, and remain, a tacit recognition of how far destitute Polish immigrants have come in the Land of Opportunity.
And they were funny.
My wife and daughter are both blond. Oh the humanity.
Now I know I'm Irish, and I feel exactly the same way—whiskey is a fair trade for ruling the world, and clean bowling shirts all around!
As usual, "progressives" have made what the British call a "dog's breakfast" of social relations in America (and I don't even want to think about Europe, land of contented cattle) and everywhere else they broadcast their stupidity. If you take nothing else from this essay, take this: I'm an old guy. I remember. While the battle for equality before the law was one of the most important political revolutions in history, we were a nicer people when we were free to offend one another.
I think ethnic jokes tended to release and evaporate tensions that parasitic leftist "neighborhood organizers" find useful unreleased and unevaporated. They have no interest in solved problems or cordial relations.
I don't know whether this social damage can be repaired. We can start by giving the political correctness Notsies the raspberry every time they make their asinine pronouncements. (You can't dress up as Chewbacca because it might offend those who are excessively hairy, and you can't dress up as R2-D2 because it might offend sapient garbage cans.)
Maybe we can make some kind of a start by offending one another again. Did you ever hear the one about the newly-married Polish couple who...
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