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The outrage industry is booming

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John Newkirk

With the children unable to agree among themselves — and my deadline long since past — I simply gave the cat the most hackneyed name I could think of: Fluffy.
Fluffy was fat and furry and pretty as a pickle. Her main purpose on earth, it seemed, was to slink, stalk and pounce on anything that moved: the fly on the window pane, a cotton ball on a string, my unshod foot.
When Fluffy finally caught whatever she was pursuing, she’d growl and flail the object with her legs, then blithely discarded it and move on to another target. My nephew once brought a puppy over, and we supposed the two might get along. They were, after all, both in the same stage of life — eager to play, eager to learn and eager to explore this new world of theirs.  
But whenever the puppy would approach, Fluffy would arch her back, hiss, spit and cuff him with her claws, leaving the poor pup confused as to whether he should stand up for himself or go sulk in the corner and wonder what he did to offend this disagreeable creature.
“There’s a lot of people like Fluffy in this world,” my nephew said bluntly.
It took awhile for his wisdom to sink in, but he was absolutely right.
An increasing number people go through life as tense as a cat when it stalks its prey. They’re constantly on the lookout for the opportunity to pounce on whatever can even remotely be interpreted as offensive.
When faced with someone of different views, they’ll figuratively hiss, spit and cuff them with their claws. It’s become so pervasive that to some Americans, it’s practically instinctive.
Like a wide-eyed puppy, I learned this lesson early in my writing career under a growing legion of readers who can be offended by a field of cotton and find racism in a flock of geese. Their indignant missives first came to me on recycled paper and were written with soy-based ink.  
Today, they come from personal computers powered by green energy carbon credits. Regardless of the medium, the message is pretty much the same: “Dear Sir: I am are highly offended by your (fill in the priggish blank).”
One reader called me racist for merely mentioning the name “United Negro College Fund,” the 75-year-old philanthropic group that’s still active today (In her mind, the opportunity for self-righteousness was a terrible thing to waste).
Another called me a Nazi when Americans for Prosperity cosponsored a lecture I gave (It seems “AFP” is also an acronym for the Anglo-centric American Freedom Party, and he just could not resist the temptation.).
The outrage industry is booming. It’s hip to be offended. But most of these people aren’t truly offended, they’re simply on the offensive — with the end goal of hurting someone or their reputation.  
Constant anger has its consequences, though, and in a few short years we’ve seen how otherwise affable people can practically turn into living portraits of Dorian Gray.
So to the members of Americans United in Everlasting Outrage and Our Ladies of the Perpetually Offended, I’ll humbly offer a few words of advice based on a few decades of observation:
Chill, folks. Life’s too short to be endlessly seeking out the worst in people.
Smile more. And make sure it’s genuine, not the diabolical “Gotcha!” growl that comes from the feeling you’ve just caught someone.
Finally, love more — and when you do this, always keep in mind the timeless words of that carpenter from the plains of Galilee:
Love is not easily offended.

Longtime Colorado resident John J. Newkirk raises cattle on a ranch near Conifer.