Last week, I ran across a post by Chris Hernandez, author, former Marine and currently serving police officer.
‘”Microaggressions”, “Trigger Warnings” and the New Meaning of “Trauma”‘ is an excellent personal view of where we are today with social sensitivities.
Hernandez says we have gone over the top and are now spouting a load of nonsense with regard to all three.
He begins by discussing what happened to a fellow Marine in a training exercise and his great uncle, also a Marine, during the Korean War. Both were traumatic incidents with lasting horrific memories or physical scars — the true definitions of trauma.
Hernandez then recounts a few of his own traumatic incidents from the war in Iraq and Afghanistan, working as a police officer and his best friend’s suicide at the age of 11. All of these have been traumatic for him. Then he writes:
However, I’ve recently discovered my definition of trauma is wrong. Trauma now seems to be pretty much anything that bothers anyone, in any way, ever. And the worst “trauma” seems to come not from horrible brushes with death like I described above; instead, they’re the result of racism and discrimination.
Over the last year I’ve heard references to “Microagressions” and “Trigger Warnings”. Trigger Warnings tell trauma victims that certain material may “contain disturbing themes that may trigger traumatic memories for sufferers”; it’s a way for them to continue avoiding what bothers them, rather than facing it (and the memories that get triggered often seem to be about discrimination, rather than mortal danger). Microaggressions are minor, seemingly innocuous statements that are actually stereotype-reinforcing trauma, even if the person making the statement meant nothing negative.
One example is telling a boy he throws a ball ‘like a girl’. Another is asking a young person if they have ever been to Europe. That is supposedly ‘traumatic’ because the person might not have enough money to travel overseas.
The result is that we now have to walk on eggshells in conversation or in writing. Whatever we say or write may be construed as a microaggression. It’s traumatic, don’t you know?
The principal nexus for ‘Microaggressions’ and ‘Trigger Warnings’ seems to be, not surprisingly, university campuses. I think back to my time as a student and, yes, silently, I, too, interpreted certain remarks as slights when they were not intended to be so. Immaturity and insecurity — two by-products of youth — are to blame. They should be overcome, not encouraged!
Hernandez concludes (emphases mine):
My sympathy for your suffering, whether that suffering was real or imaginary, ended when you demanded I change my life to avoid bringing up your bad memories. You don’t seem to have figured this out, but there is no “I must never be reminded of a negative experience” expectation in any culture anywhere on earth …
And before anyone says it; being Hispanic doesn’t make me any more sympathetic to people who experience nonexistent, discriminatory “trauma”. Discrimination didn’t break me (or my parents, or grandparents). I’ve been discriminated against by whites for being Hispanic. I’ve been threatened by blacks for being white. I’ve been insulted by Hispanics for not being Hispanic enough. Big deal. None of that stopped me from doing anything I wanted to do. It wasn’t “trauma”. It was life.
Generations of Americans experienced actual trauma. Our greatest generation survived the Depression, then fought the worst war in humanity’s history, then built the United States into the most successful nation that has ever existed. They didn’t accomplish any of that by being crystal eggshells that would shatter at the slightest provocation, they didn’t demand society change to protect their tender feelings. They simply dealt with the hardships of their past and moved on. Even my great uncle, the Korea Marine, never expected us to tiptoe around him. He wouldn’t talk about his experience, but he didn’t order us not to.
If your past bothers you that much, get help. I honestly hope you come to terms with it. I hope you manage to move forward. I won’t say anything meant to dredge up bad memories, and don’t think anyone should intentionally try to harm your feelings.
But nobody, nobody, should censor themselves to protect you from your pathological, and pathologically stupid, sensitivities.
Being overly-sensitive was something our parents — and siblings — taught us was unhelpful for our lives as adults. This was the case even up until the last several years. I remember something from the 90s which I haven’t heard for a decade:
Grow some skin.
In other words, toughen up a bit. True then, true now.
Unfortunately, the preponderance of Microaggression is another form of identity politics which quickly seems to be turning into yet another industry.
The old advice to children and young adults is still the best: be kind to each other, exercise good manners and don’t make personal remarks. And don’t get upset if someone unintentionally says something you don’t like. That’s part of life in a fallen world.