Opinion: ‘Thin Skinned’

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Commentary by Terry Anker

Sticks and stones may break my bones but words will never harm me. Most of us memorized the nursery rhyme almost as soon as we learned to talk. It reminds us that physical harm is not the same as emotional distress. But it also hoped to calm us when we felt besieged by those unable or unwilling to include us in their play. For many generations, children were taught the basic common law principle that to be determined an assault, an insult must be accompanied by actual physical violence.

Modern pundits have debated whether name-calling should be redefined to include an assertion that “words” can actually hurt more than a physical injury. Bullying, hate-crime, and a panoply of other laws are swamping the criminal justice system. The internet is overflowing with stories of troubled folk who take their own lives pointing to brutal and unrelenting social media “names.” Radical Islam seems willing to indiscriminately take human life in retaliation for perceived insults. And, hooded thugs roam the streets, setting fires and stealing flat-screens because of a politician’s incendiary and thoughtless populist remarks.

Clearly, words are powerful. But, when did we become so thin-skinned? Can we justify physical violence in reaction to mean-spirited, snarky or even intentionally provocative words? Is it right to tolerate this burgeoning oversensitivity? Or, is learning to deal with hurt feelings as a youngster that which leads us to develop the emotional maturity to contend with adult matters in later years?

No doubt, bullies should be punished; and, hate should have no place in the civic space. Yet can we hope to build laws to ensure that we never get our feelings hurt? And perhaps more importantly, are we ever right to use real violence to answer an insult? Sometimes, cohabitation requires a little tolerance.

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Opinion: ‘Thin Skinned’

0

Sticks and stones may break my bones but words will never harm me. Most of us memorized the nursery rhyme almost as soon as we learned to talk. It reminds us that physical harm is not the same as emotional distress. But it also hoped to calm us when we felt besieged by those unable or unwilling to include us in their play. For many generations, children were taught the basic common law principle that to be determined an assault, an insult must be accompanied by actual physical violence.

Modern pundits have debated whether name-calling should be redefined to include an assertion that “words” can actually hurt more than a physical injury. Bullying, hate-crime, and a panoply of other laws are swamping the criminal justice system. The internet is overflowing with stories of troubled folk who take their own lives pointing to brutal and unrelenting social media “names.” Radical Islam seems willing to indiscriminately take human life in retaliation for perceived insults. And, hooded thugs roam the streets, setting fires and stealing flat-screens because of a politician’s incendiary and thoughtless populist remarks.

Clearly, words are powerful. But, when did we become so thin-skinned? Can we justify physical violence in reaction to mean-spirited, snarky or even intentionally provocative words? Is it right to tolerate this burgeoning oversensitivity? Or, is learning to deal with hurt feelings as a youngster that which leads us to develop the emotional maturity to contend with adult matters in later years?

No doubt, bullies should be punished; and, hate should have no place in the civic space. Yet can we hope to build laws to ensure that we never get our feelings hurt? And perhaps more importantly, are we ever right to use real violence to answer an insult? Sometimes, cohabitation requires a little tolerance.

Share.

Current Morning Briefing Logo

Stay CURRENT with our daily newsletter (M-F) and breaking news alerts delivered to your inbox for free!

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By submitting this form, you are consenting to receive marketing emails from: Current Publishing, 30 S. Range Line Road, Carmel, IN, 46032, https://www.youarecurrent.com. You can revoke your consent to receive emails at any time by using the SafeUnsubscribe® link, found at the bottom of every email. Emails are serviced by Constant Contact