At what point does a denial constitute an insult?
I wish that question had a funny punchline, but it's legit.
Whatever side of the political spectrum you're on, you probably know that Illinois Senator and presumptive Democratic presidential nominee Barack Obama has spent a significant portion of his campaign denying that he's a Muslim, as has been "reported" - and I use that word loosely - by detractors, critics, gossip-mongers, and plain old fibbers who know full well that Obama has made repeated, public declarations of Christian faith.
His choice of church and pastor? Different story altogether, but in terms of faith and denomination and such, the man says he isn't a Muslim and has never worshiped as a Muslim. And that should be the end of the story.
Except it isn't. In that delicate dance of one step toward getting everyone to like him and one step toward attempting to set the record straight about his personal life, Obama has unwittingly offended a new group: Muslims who support him.
As reported in the Miami Herald recently, a group of Muslim Democrats is offended that Obama felt the need to launch a rumor-debunking Web site in the hopes of easing the minds of uncertain voters who aren't sure what to believe about his personal background.
The group says that the Web-site and Obama's denials are insulting because both suggest that there is something wrong with Islam.
I know this is a serious issue, but it reminded me once again of a Seinfeld episode, this time the one in which Jerry and George are thought to be gay by a student reporter from NYU. Both men spent the entire episode vehemently denying that they were gay and following each denial with "not that there's anything wrong with that!" This essentially is what Obama has been doing with the Muslim rumors.
Maybe I'm dense, but I don't get where the offense comes in here.
It'd be one thing if Obama said "No way! I'm not one of those wacky Muslims!" But he didn't denigrate that religion. All he did was say it's not his.
How is that bad?
We have gotten way too thin-skinned when it comes to what offends us about other people's self-descriptions.
At some point you have to say "I don't care what you think. This is who I am!" It might earn Obama a few more points if he did just that.
I understand there are instances when a denial can be offensive. But if you have one eye and half a brain you'll know it when one of those instances presents itself to you.
Here's a personal example: Back in college, I had friendly acquaintanceship with a female classmate. Every so often we'd study together, or grab coffee after class and share gossip. One day I heard she had gone on a date with someone we'll call "Bill." And during a coffee break I asked her about it. For a brief moment she forgot my appearance and reacted to this effect: "Ewww, no way! Bill? Are you kidding me? He's, he's..." And then she remembered who she was talking to. See, she was Asian. Bill was black. "Black" is the word that she hesitated to say at the end of that denial, the denial she spat out as though it tasted badly. Was I offended? Damn straight. She later apologized to me and said she'd just been raised to steer clear of black guys, and that she didn't mean any harm. Whatever. The point is her denial was more about making sure people didn't mistakenly think she was into icky, icky black guys, than it was about setting the record straight on who she was romantically involved with. She could've denied the date rumor and left it at that. But she took it a step further 'cause she actually found Bill distasteful, 'cause of his race.
You can't tell me with a straight face that Obama's denials and her denials are on par.
Quit being so thin-skinned folks. If you're straight or black or white or Martian or young or old or vegetarian or meat-eating or religious or atheist or agnostic or sexy or gross or whatever, and people get some part of your identity wrong in a way that could negatively impact your life, then set 'em straight.
If they have a real understanding of how the rest of the world works and they're not in denial, they won't mind you saying who you really are.