Friday, February 17, 2017

With Charity Toward None

“You have heard that it was said to those of ancient times, ‘You shall not murder’; and ‘whoever murders shall be liable to judgment.’ But I say to you that if you are angry with a brother or sister, you will be liable to judgment; and if you insult a brother or sister, you will be liable to the council; and if you say, ‘You fool,’ you will be liable to the hell of fire.”

Matthew 5:21-22

Political Correctness, also known as PC or P.C., is commonly defined as “the avoidance, often considered as taken to extremes, of forms of expression or action that are perceived to exclude, marginalize, or insult groups of people who are socially disadvantaged or discriminated against.”

Some trace it back to a statement by Mao Zedong, “Not to have a correct political point of view is like having no soul.”

The term was first used ironically by leftist commentators. But (ironically) one might suspect that it is true for most American politicians on both sides and especially on both extremes. No one would admit that because it would mean agreeing with Mao and that (again, ironically) would not be politically correct.

Mao’s aphorism explains the willingness of Conservative Evangelicals to abandon their supposed moral principles in order to advance their politics. Their politics is their theology.

Opponents of Political Correctness say that it stifles free speech.

Taken to extremes, it does stifle debate and discussion. But the foundational concept is a good one. We should not “exclude marginalize, or insult groups of people who are socially disadvantaged or discriminated against.” That’s just common decency.

Nevertheless, Political Correctness is everyone’s favorite punching bag.

No one wants to be insulted or called a name. But everyone seems to be offended by the idea that they ought not to offend others.

Donald Trump rode that common feeling of indignation all the way to the White House. His ability to articulate that inchoate sense of victimization turned out to be a brilliant strategy. 

In an article published by The Guardian, Moira Weigel observes that, “Throughout an erratic campaign, Trump consistently blasted political correctness, blaming it for an extraordinary range of ills and using the phrase to deflect any and every criticism.” And she points to a key moment during the first debate of the Republican primaries when Fox News host Megyn Kelly asked Trump how he would answer the charge that he was “part of the war on women”.

“You’ve called women you don’t like ‘fat pigs,’ ‘dogs,’ ‘slobs,’ and ‘disgusting animals’,” Kelly pointed out. “You once told a contestant on Celebrity Apprentice it would be a pretty picture to see her on her knees …”
“I think the big problem this country has is being politically correct,” Trump answered, to audience applause. “I’ve been challenged by so many people, I don’t frankly have time for total political correctness. And to be honest with you, this country doesn’t have time either.”
Weigel asserts that pushed beyond what any other critics of Political Correctness had been willing to say and do. “Trump did not simply criticize the idea of political correctness,” she writes. “He actually said and did the kind of outrageous things that PC culture supposedly prohibited.”

One of the things his supporters liked best was his willingness to “tell it like it is.” He was willing to say what many of them were really thinking.

He broke the boundaries of what was acceptable.

Weigel summarizes this appeal by contrasting it with a much more conventional politician:

“In 1991, when George HW Bush warned that political correctness was a threat to free speech, he did not choose to exercise his free speech rights by publicly mocking a man with a disability or characterizing Mexican immigrants as rapists. Trump did.
“Having elevated the powers of PC to mythic status, the draft-dodging billionaire, son of a slumlord, taunted the parents of a fallen soldier and claimed that his cruelty and malice was, in fact, courage.”
In this strange new world, free of the chains of oppressive political correctness, we are now free to call names, ridicule the powerless, and slander the already marginalized. Best of all, we need not feel guilty for our cruelty. Instead we can celebrate our willingness to “tell it like it is.”

Thank you for reading. Your thoughts and comments are always welcome. Please feel free to share on social media as you wish.

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