“You find it offensive. I find it funny. That’s why I’m happier than you.”

Travis Naughton

The above quote has been making its way around the world in one form or another for some time now. I encounter it on the internet at least once a week. It’s on scores of t-shirts and coffee mugs available for purchase from various online retailers. I’m sure it’s made its way to the rear bumper of a car or two as well.

You’ve probably seen a clever meme on your Facebook feed with the quote superimposed over a photo of a smiling Leonardo DiCaprio as The Great Gatsby. You may have even “liked” or shared the image with your friends.

You might even own the t-shirt.

I mean, the quote makes a great point, doesn’t it? People who are easily offended really don’t seem as happy. But the people who are comfortable offending whomever they want without feeling the least bit guilty about it? Those folks are definitely happy. Aren’t they?

But what exactly is “it” that some people find to be offensive? The “it” in our quote du jour seems to be much too vague. “It” can literally mean just about anything. Is “it” a homophobic slur or a racist joke? Is “it” making fun of disabled people? Fat-shaming? Puns about sexual harassment?

I wonder if those “happier” people would be open to wearing a slightly edited version of the t-shirt. For example, let’s see what the quote looks like when we simply replace the “it” with something a little more specific. “You find sexual harassment offensive. I find sexual harassment funny. That’s why I’m happier than you.”

How about this one? “You find homophobic slurs offensive. I find homophobic slurs funny. That’s why I’m happier than you.”

What if we leave the “its” alone and incorporate some missing but implied words instead? “You find it offensive (because you have a mentally disabled child). I find it funny (because I don’t). That’s why I’m happier than you.”

Now let’s attempt to replace the “its” while also incorporating the implied words. “You find rape jokes offensive (because you’re a woman). I find rape jokes funny (because I’m a man). That’s why I’m happier than you.”

Finally, let’s replace the “its”, incorporate the implied words, and remove the parentheses. “You find a noose hanging in your office offensive because you’re black. I find it funny because I’m white. That’s why I’m happier than you.”

Would you wear THAT t-shirt?

Before you answer, I think it is worth our time to reexamine the original quote. “You find it offensive. I find it funny. That’s why I’m happier than you.” I can already hear my detractors telling me to lighten up. “It’s just an internet meme, Naughton. It doesn’t mean that I’m a racist/misogynist/homophobe.” Perhaps not, but the vague nature of the quote begs readers to come up with their own interpretations.

But that’s the point of the quote, isn’t it? To cause the “easily offended” to search for a reason to be offended. In other words, people disseminate the quote for the express purpose of offending people who are easily offended. It’s their way of fighting back against the political correctness movement.

Just who are these people who are so easy (and fun) for anti-P.C. folks to offend? I’ll tell you. They are the parents of disabled children. They are minorities who are the frequent targets of bigotry and discrimination. They are the victims of sexual harassment. And they are the allies of these groups. For the life of me, I’ll never understand why anyone would take pleasure in offending, and causing the emotional suffering of, their fellow human beings.

I had an encounter with some kids at school the other day who were making fun of Chinese people. I calmly explained to the youngsters why it is not okay to make fun of people because of their appearance. I even showed them some photos of my Chinese son and daughter to humanize my point. After our discussion, I walked away and resumed my cafeteria supervising duties.

Less than two minutes later, I saw one of the boys I had just talked to pulling back the corners of his eyes in an obvious attempt to look Chinese. His friend across the lunch table thought it was absolutely hilarious. I did not. Those kids might as well have said to me, “Mr. Naughton, you find it offensive. We find it funny. That’s why we’re happier than you.”

And for a moment, those boys were much, much happier than me. I wasn’t simply offended. I was deeply hurt.

Let’s revisit our original quote, replacing the word “offensive” this time. “You find it hurtful. I find it funny. That’s why I’m happier than you.” Would you wear THAT t-shirt?

How about the expanded form? “You find making fun of Chinese people offensive/hurtful because you have Chinese children. I find it funny because I’ve learned from my role models that white people are superior to people of other races—including your kids. That’s why I’m happier than you.”

Why don’t we just forget about the t-shirts and memes and just treat each other with respect? Trust me, our kids are paying close attention. Let’s be the role models they deserve.