Can We Handle the Truth About Political Correctness?
I knew a guy who loved to tell blatantly racist jokes. We’ll call him “Mr. Name Withheld” because it’s possible he still walks among us.
In addition to his other charms, Mr. Name Withheld also had no concept of personal space. He would grab my arm and literally pull me so close I could count the bumper crop of hairs growing out of his enormous tomato nose. Then he’d go into his act:
“Two blacks walk into the welfare office ...” or “Two Jews are in a band ...” punctuated with his phlegmy laugh while exhaling the fumes of two lifetime’s supply of Johnny Walker Red.
For the record, “blacks” were never “blacks.” Yes, he was that awful.
I hadn’t thought about Mr. Name Withheld in years, not until Donald Trump arrived on the scene.
Trump’s decidedly non-PC approach to politics continues to win the cheers of millions of Americans exhausted by the pandemic of hypersensitivity sweeping the nation. And he’s not entirely wrong about political correctness. The problem is he confuses rudeness for honesty just as Mr. Name Withheld confused racism for repartee.
Trump knows how to be respectful. He’s made a conscious choice to be otherwise. He believes we believe civility and manners are weakness rather than strength. It’s both cynical and wrongheaded and 180 degrees from the lesson learned by a young George Washington.
Washington wrote out his “16 Rules of Civility” over and over until they became ingrained in the fabric of his character. They were the wellspring of his strength. Trump is channeling his inner Andrew Dice Clay.
Political correctness started out as heightened sensitivity to groups and individuals who have been historically vulnerable. Not the worst idea. Sadly, it’s now morphed into thought control, where someone need only feel uncomfortable for the hammer to come down. Americans today are offended by so many things we’ve actually created a new industry, the professionally offended.
Last week The Washington Post published results from a nationwide survey that determined 9 out of 10 Native Americans (formerly known as “Indians”) were NOT offended by the name Redskins attached to an NFL team.
Yet, the NFL continues to be pressured, as does Redskins owner Daniel Snyder, to change the team name, with the federal government going so far as to remove copyright protection for the team’s trademarked logo.
That should offend every American who cares about their First Amendment rights no matter how you come down on the Redskin controversy.
The question we need to ask is how far should society go to remedy grievances?
One man’s triviality is another man’s psychic wound. That’s why it’s imperative we learn to distinguish between social justice and hurt feelings. Discrimination codified by law is social injustice. That’s pretty obvious. Micro-aggressions and perceived biases are not obvious.
When we create speech codes in reaction to a drunken frat boy shouting the N-word out a dorm window, we solve one problem but create another. We’re punting away fundamental rights. I didn’t need the government to tell Mr. Name Withheld to buzz off.
We all have the right to demand our government end sanctioned discrimination. We don’t have the right to go from cradle to grave without our feelings being hurt. Yet it seems like in this highly charged election year that’s the choice we’re being asked to make; do we vote for the verbal bully or the queen of parsed language?
On a personal level, a little PC goes a long way. Don’t believe me? What did you say the last time the wife asked if a certain dress made her butt look fat? Honesty is not always the best policy.
What might be considerate in personal relationships can be reckless when shape-shifting the truth skews public policy.
Doug McIntyre’s column appears Sundays. Hear him weekdays 5-10 on AM 790. He can be reached at: Doug@DougMcIntyre.com.