Our generation is slowly becoming more and more sensitive about each other's feelings. In our day and age, political correctness is a must to avoid offending anyone. We have established laws to protect each other from the lethal smoke of cigarettes, enforced helmets and vast arrays of safety gear on most vehicles and have laws in effect to prevent unnecessary profanity.
The unfortunate part of this sensitivity is that, although in good faith, it can become a burden and a useless endeavour. Being politically correct about everything is quite a hard thing to do; referring to a black person as an "African-American" isn't entirely correct-- not all black people are from Africa, neither are they always American.
So when South Park produced an episode named "Ginger Kids" in 2005, which inspired a Facebook group naming Nov. 20 National Kick a Ginger Day, our population reacted strongly. The joke was taken by some as a full-force bullying holiday. Anti-bullying advocate Rob Frenette was shocked when he found out about the group.
"We are very taken back that students would pick a certain group of people to harass due to their hair colour," he told CTV News from New Brunswick.
Although it seems like the kids who created the Facebook group, (one a 14-year-old) were out to bully for all it's worth, they were actually just continuing the joke. The South Park episode was actually a satire of bullies and demonstrated that everyone should be accepted. But, of the people to hear of this event or join in, a few actually took it seriously. This is the problem. If people could take a joke and understand that kids are more likely to be hurt by falling down than by a joking kick, we would realize that this is actually a pretty ridiculous thing to get all fussed up about. But with all our fear in offending someone, our senses of humour have become lost in the blur of correction.
The majority of the members in the Facebook group knew that it was a joke and quite a few of them were ginger themselves. In this wide majority of members, one could probably guess that most of them would not advocate bullying in any other sense, say calling a kid "four-eyes" because they are wearing glasses.
So our acts to not offend anyone have ended up in a heated fervour, ending in rumours of South Park being handed a hate crime lawsuit.
Some kids did take it too far Nov. 20, but the only incidents that were brought to light all ended in minor bruising. The problem is still that people have taken this joke way too seriously and ruined it in the process.
There are Facebook groups joking about everything. One group, "I Love Seals So Much I Want to Club Them" bears the description: "This is a group for those of us who support the time-honoured tradition of killing seals. This tradition, unfortunately, comes under attack annually at the commencement of the seal hunt. Anyone expressing anti-sealing opinions will be promptly removed from the group. Then shot," which is obviously a joke. Yet, this group as well as many others like it, hasn't been featured on the news as cruel and wrong. Maybe Facebook groups are the last leg of slapstick sarcastic humour, but one should hope not. Curse the day that our collective fear of offending anyone drives our jokes into hiding on the Internet.