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Monday, September 5, 2016

Apology for Political Correctness

PC is taking lots of hits lately, especially in the political campaign. 

Here's Ted Cruz after the Orlando shootings: "Enough is enough. What we need is for every American—Democrat and Republican—to come together, abandon political correctness, and unite in defeating radical Islamic terrorism." He condemns Obama for not using the words "" radical Islamic terrorism" and says that instead we must speak the truth. And here's Trump: "With Hillary and Obama, the terrorist attacks will only get worse. Politically correct fools, won't even call it what it is - RADICAL ISLAM!" 

What his followers say they like about Trump is that he tells it like it is. He is not afraid to call Mexican immigrants "rapists and murderers." And he clearly confronts the language of feminism in line with Rush Limbaugh's attack on the femiNazis. He counters anyone opposing his positions as falling into political correctness which he equates with covering up the truth.

When he was rebuked for saying that President Obama started ISIS, he responded that he was just being sarcastic. He dismissed his critics as being too politically correct. Which I guess for him means taking him too literally or maybe for telling the truth. 

"I think the big problem this country has is being politically correct. I’ve been challenged by so many people and I don’t, frankly, have time for total political correctness. And to be honest with you, this country doesn’t have time, either." The irony is that Cruz and Trump are making political incorrectness political correct. 

Now I suppose there is a PC to oppose. It is the PC that avoids speaking the truth as you see it for fear of being criticized or that misleads and misstates the truth for some personal advantage. However, those who oppose PC are often those who want to go back to the good old days when you can call a spade (i.e. or speaking in PC "a person of African American descent") a spade. Or Protestant Christianity the true national religion, the religion of the founders. Or when boys could be boys, i.e. whistle at girls, pat them on the butt, or identify them by their body parts, i.e. "cunts," "boobs,"  and "asses" which they want a piece of. 

PC, they say, would have us treat girls, coloreds, and even unbelievers, illegal aliens, and unAmericans with respect even in our supposed free speech. That has us always walking on ice afraid of the word police. Feminists, Coloreds, Freaks have just gone too far, We watered down the nation with Catholics and Jews. Now we have to accept Muslims, atheists, and illegal immigrants. We appreciate those who say things the way they really are. Straight talkers bring back our exceptional nation in its original purity when it was really great. 

The PC that Cruz, Trump, Limbaugh and their disciples and ditto-heads are opposing seems to be civility, caution in judging, and understanding the effects of words especially in the public arena. (Really, can't you understand why it is important not to brand all Muslims as evil radicals?) They seem to be attacking those who are thoughtful and take into consideration how their words might hurt, disrespect, disdain, or dehumanize others and recognize how words influence behavior. And this is especially so in discussing religion, sexuality, race and ethnicity, immigration, disability, education, achievement, occupation, and status. It is PC as civility that I want to defend against those who oppose it. 

Civility is the mark of citizenship whether or not persons have the legal documents for citizenship. A citizen is a member of civil society. The first act of civility is recognizing one another. It is smiling and saying hello on the street to everyone you meet. Or even helping out another person in trouble. Respect for another is a more basic act of civility than voting. Participation in associations for mutual self-help is probably the strongest act of civility and the best mark of the citizen. Recognizing, respecting, and participating with others, including those of diverse beliefs, traditions, ethnicities, and sexual orientations, creates the civil society.

Words and behaviors which divide, demean, and dehumanize others for whatever reason destroy civil society. I guess you could say they are "politically incorrect." But let's not.

I suggest dropping the phrase "political correctness" since it is so misunderstood and usually used as an excuse to be uncivil. Let's just talk about political truth and civility. These are concepts on which we can all agree. We can discuss our various opinions of how to achieve them in our nation. Most of the people who use the term "political correctness" are really using it as a way to attack someone's position. Let's just argue about our opinions and positions but do so civilly, with respect.

So I started out this essay hoping to defend PC and instead I say we should drop it because it is so misunderstood and misused. Civility and truth in politics, however, we need to defend if we would defend our democratic republic. 

I think it would be so PC to stop talking about PC.

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