The right not to be offended

The right not to be offended may be a concession to an emerging caste system. Historically, aristocrats and royal personages tend to have the right not to be offended. And in post-Christian culture, perhaps victim groups acquire it. In the absence of a common liturgy that tells us we all can be victims or victimizers in our turn, we have sociological and political theories that designate the permanent oppressors and oppressed.

Or the right to be offended is a recognition that we no longer share a common culture, but instead have something like the non-overlapping “communities” one finds in places where people don’t share a common national identity. In these unhappy places, elaborate legally binding rules emerge to facilitate shows of respect and draw lines of social demarcation. They function like treaties, and transgressing them is presumed to return the parties to a state of social war.

I don’t expect that any plausible identities I could claim are likely to grant me the power to tell my co-workers they are “denying my existence” and “making me debate my humanity in the workplace.” I’ve tried to goad Charlie Cooke into calling me a “left-footer.” But try explaining that to a judge in New York.