by Ted Sares
The politically correct crowd (not to be confused with the "in crowd" or with those joining every possible community group, committee, and board that time allows, or otherwise touting good citizenship, righteousness, and decency) is composed of those who give nasty looks to others they perceive as free-thinking, irreverent, independent, intellectually curious, analytically antagonistic, or otherwise abnormal and who may, in their minds, be worthy candidates for some star-chamber disciplinary proceeding.
Political correctness, as set forth in Wikipedia, is a term used almost always ironically and pejoratively to describe real or perceived attempts to impose limits on language and the range of acceptable public debate. While it often refers to a linguistic phenomenon such as "he or she,"which ironically calls more attention to the difference than suppressing it, just as often covers political ideology representations in literature, films, advertising and arts, as well as, and most dangerously, behavior. It used to be considered just an annoyance championed by people with thin skin and initially was all about gender pronouns, hyphenated nationalities and stereotypes.
Unfortunately, PC has evolved since the ’80s into something far more dangerous. Now it is changing our society from within, and we the the citizens of this nation are increasingly censoring ourselves and losing our freedom of speech out of fear of PC repression. For example, now, if you tell someone that gay rights should not extend any further than your rights or my rights, you may be putting yourself at risk of being labeled a homophobe by the PC police.
The NCAA banned the use of American Indian mascots by sports teams during its postseason tournaments. So much for the Florida State Seminoles, but Florida State President T.K. Wetherell blasted the NCAA and threatened legal action. "FSU is stunned at the complete lack of appreciation for cultural diversity shown by the NCAA’s executive committee… That the NCAA would now label our close bond with the Seminole Tribe of Florida as culturally ‘hostile and abusive’ is both outrageous and insulting," Wetherell said recently. An example of someone fighting back.
There are countless cases of political correctness run amok (squabbling over whether to call the victims of Katrina "refugees" or "evacuees" is a current example). Michael Barone has some astonishing facts in a recent U.S. News & World Report column: "A team of Indiana firefighters, volunteering to help rescue victims of Katrina, went to Atlanta, where Federal Emergency Management Agency staffers told them that their job was to hand out fliers and that their first task was to attend a multi-hour course on sexual harassment and equal employment opportunity."
Sometimes silence can be PC, as evidenced by the sad absence of politicians who have the spine to engage controversial topics such as the the other side of the anti-smoking argument.
In his 1998 book, "The End of Sanity," (Harper Collins), Martin Gross writes that "blatantly irrational behavior is rapidly being established as the norm in almost every area of human endeavor. There seem to be new customs, new rules, new anti-intellectual theories regularly foisted on us from every direction. Underneath, the nation is roiling. Americans know something without a name is undermining the nation, turning the mind mushy when it comes to separating truth from falsehood and right from wrong. And they don’t like it."
Zeroing in on education, I trust and pray that when addressing the issue of privacy as it relates to certain types of inappropriate behavior, school boards and their attorneys will be extremely circumspect with that dreaded, take-no-prisoners bastion of political correctness, the Zero-Tolerance Policy. Hopefully, they will do appropriate research to ensure they are not moving down a road to hell paved with good intentions and political correctness, for a one size fits all approach can be just that. Think not? A 10-year-old girl at McElwain Elementary in Thornton, Col., was one of a group of girls who asked a certain boy on the playground if he liked her. The boy complained to a teacher with the result that school administrators, citing the district’s "zero-tolerance sexual harassment policy," decided to suspend her.
A significant body of compelling research indicates these get-tough disciplinary measures often fail and, in many cases, their loony tunes, overzealous application simply defies common sense. More importantly, by refusing to consider each individual’s personal history and the intentions that inspired their actions, zero-tolerance policies deny the unique worth and dignity of every person. The widely read Harvard University Zero-Tolerance Report Project of 2000 has strongly criticized the one-size-fits-all method and is highly recommended to our local officials.
During a surprisingly rousing and subsequently acclaimed speech on this subject at the Harvard Law Forum in 1999, Charleton Heston stated: "If you accept but don’t celebrate homosexuality, it does not make you a homophobe… Don’t let America’s universities continue to serve as incubators for this rampant epidemic of new McCarthyism. But what can you do?… The answer’s been here all along. I learned it 36 years ago, on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial in Washington D.C., standing with Dr. Martin Luther King and 200,000 people. You simply…disobey. Peaceably, yes. Respectfully, of course. Nonviolently, absolutely. But when told how to think or what to say or how to behave, we don’t. We disobey social protocol that stifles and stigmatizes personal freedom." He closed with these stirring comments: So that this nation may long endure, I urge you to follow in the hallowed footsteps of the great disobedience’s of history that freed exiles, founded religions, defeated tyrants, and yes, in the hands of an aroused rabble in arms and a few great men, by God’s grace, built this country.
If Dr. King [with whom Charleton Heston and this writer marched in 1963] were here, I think he would agree. I know I do, for being intellectually disobedient and irreverent in order to slow down attempts to equalize and homogenize that which is impossible to equalize or homogenize is, in my view, a noble endeavor indeed.
"An individualist is a man who says: ‘I will not run anyone’s life nor let anyone run mine. I will not rule or be ruled. I will not be a master nor a slave. I will not sacrifice myself to anyone nor sacrifice anyone to myself.’" Ayn Rand, "Textbook of Americanism."
Ted Sares, PhD, is a private investor who lives and writes in the White Mountain area of Northern New Hampshire with his wife Holly and Min Pin Jackdog. He writes a weekly column for a local newspaper and many of his other pieces are widely published.
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