Political Correctness or What

Where does language and action intersect to create a society in which individuals are no longer seen or heard?

I can agree that some language has the power to cause harm, however this does not mean that it should be removed from our vocabulary.  In fact, it should not.  The ridiculous lengths that we go today too not offend stifles creativity, individuality, and in some cases reality.  The ability to express one’s self with language is one of the highest proofs of our humanity.  In the world today, we have many roads to political correctness (PC) each with their own shrill leaders.  The most frightening part of this race to PC is that if and when we achieve a sanitized society free from language and behavior that offends, what will we be left with?

I believe the answer to that question is we will be left without history or the language to express it.  That eventually we will be left frustrated with our inability to realize the richness of a truly diverse culture or the ability to express it fully.  That we will no longer be able to define the world around us in terms that are factual or reality based.  I believe that we will sanitize our language and our behavior to the extent that we will give up our personal freedoms in favor of not offending.  Oddly, we are so afraid of offending today we will not stand our ground and say that we also must be heard, we also are here, and we have value – whoever we might be.

We are so busy trying not to offend we accept offense for ourselves without so much as blinking our eyes.  We fear giving offense so we disregard the truth that is before us.  We accept lies as truth in the hope that by doing so we will be safer and others will accept us; this too is a lie.  Let’s face it some things are simply what they have always been changing what we call them doesn’t change their basic construct or make the thing different.  A juvenile delinquent is a criminal simple and straight forward; they are not socially maladjusted or socially challenged.  They a might be these things too, but they are first a criminal.  A rose by any other name is still a rose.

There is a bigger problem though than just the obvious offensive language of racism and sexism removed from our everyday lexicon.  It is the removal of normal language and normal conventions for fear of offending the hypersensitive among us.  Consider the following example[1]s:

  • Black Sheep: either the four-legged animal, considered rare for its production of black wool or the odd family member or group member considered different from the norm; rebel, outcast, renegade, maverick, prodigal, individualist, non-conformist[2].
    • Suggested change: Outcast.  Of course, this doesn’t address how to refer to the four-legged animal with the black wool production.
  • Manhole: you know the hole in the street covered by a large and heavy metal plate?  Yes the one that gives access to maintenance for sewers and other wonderful things below the surface.
    • Suggested change: Utility hole, Maintenance hole, Access Chamber.  In 1990 Sacramento, California renamed all their Manholes out of concern for equality of the genders.  They settled on the gender free Maintenance Hole in part to save money since the initials were the same and thus the city grid maps would not have to be changed.
  • Uneducated: the meaning here is clear to me and should be to most others.  The person being referred to is without education.  Why is this politically incorrect?  The lack of education is an easily corrected thing, something fully within the power of the individual.  It seems however, this is another word that I am to lose from my vocabulary.
    • Suggested change: Lacking a formal education.  Isn’t that what I just said?  Uneducated!  It isn’t as if I called them ignorant, right.
  • Flip Chart: Yes, that trivial chart used in presentations, workshops, and classrooms now has a more oppressive meaning; indeed, it has joined the “ism” ranks as a racism slander.  Because the word “Flip” can be a derogatory word for a person from the Philippines, no longer should we use it in any other logical or meaningful way.
    • Suggested change: Easel
    • Now am I going too far but how about these as well?
      • We won’t flip burgers anymore
      • We won’t flip our hair
      • Never again to flip a coin
      • Nope, no more flipping through a report or a picture book
      • Gymnasts will need new language as well, no more Flips for them
      • Politics and those who report the news will need to stop telling us about Flip Flops; course it would be nice if politicians would simply stop Flip Flopping but that is an entirely different issue.

Do you see the problem here, and I have only addressed the really silly word games not the more important ones.  Not the words that are ingrained in our language and have real meaning.

Political correctness is nothing less than tyranny.  Societies that embrace political correctness are in fact embracing fascism and thus their own loss of freedom.  The term, political correctness, itself comes from Marxist-Leninist vocabulary and was used to define the accepted party line[3].  Beginning in the 1970’s political correctness has infiltrated our society to the extent that in some cases we are afraid to order black coffee for fear of offending someone.  One linguistic concept in the use of “inclusive” or “neutral” language claims that we can change our thinking and even our actions based upon our use of grammatical categories’[4].  In its strong form, this hypothesis claims that thoughts and actions are formed by the use of language and thus limitations on language would in fact change behavior over time.  In a more moderated form, the hypothesis supports the idea that the way in which we view the world is influenced by language.

The ’inclusive’ versus ‘exclusive’ language we are faced with today is a learning experience and frankly I am to old to relearn the English language to satisfy others need to feel validated. Your need to be something other than what you are is likely not going to be met by me today. Your humanity I will gladly and happily acknowledge. Your ‘he’ or ‘she’, whether born or later defined, I will gladly embrace, but darlin’ beyond this I am likely not getting there in this lifetime. Some of my difficulty is purely a matter of what is before me that my eyes can see and some is simply good grammar.

Do I believe that by removing the use of offending words we remove thoughts?  No, I don’t believe this at all.  The truth is that no matter how we try to change the history of offenses, real or perceived of the past, they remain.  The offending words remain in our lexicon whether they are now proscribed or reclaimed, they linger.  As a society, we continue to move towards a model that gives less offense to the few while the many are left to wonder what happened to their standards and social values.  So as not to offend we celebrate the “Holidays” but not Christmas.  To not offend we can require Spanish speaking in our job advertisements but beware demanding English speakers.  To avoid offense we should avoid calling those who enter the country Illegal Aliens, rather we should call them Undocumented workers.  Yet in all this avoidance of offense, we are left with an aftertaste that something is terribly wrong; something is missing.

Should we condemn racism?  Should we condemn sexism?  Of course, we should condemn these antiques of the past.  Nevertheless, the “isms” of the past will continue to exist in one form or another with or without the language to express them.  Excluding the language of racism and sexism does not eliminate its existence within society.  Reclaiming the language of racism and sexism, changing it to the language of urban hip-hop does not remove its sting or truly change its meaning.  The language of exclusion and inclusion will continue to exist so long as humans form social groups.

The danger today is that we are attempting to remove freedom of expression and thought through political correctness.  Rather than allowing society to mature naturally we are stifling independent thinking in favor of acquiescence with social orthodoxy and the loss of personal sovereignty.  In the name of social acceptance, we are giving away our individuality.  Personally, I am saddened by this loss.


[1] http://www.sideroad.com/Business_Communication/politically-correct-language.html

[2] http://encyclopedia.thefreedictionary.com/manhole

[3] Ellis, Frank (2004).  Political correctness and the theoretical struggle. Auckland: Maxim Institute

[4] Sapir-Whorf hypothesis

http://politicallyincorrect.me.uk/banned.htm

Deafening Silence

My silence is deafening, even to my own ears. It is not for lack of anything to say rather it is that there is far to much to say and the voices in my head keep whispering, arguing even that I should remain silent if I cannot find anything nice to say. I have nothing. This is the truth, I have a thousand voices in my head whispering, arguing, fussing and fighting and most of the time I sit on the sidelines listening. But me? I have nothing to say, or possibly it is I have so much to say it is impossible to place my thoughts into a cohesive, coherent and manageable context. But as the year meanders forward I am trying hard to write, just write outside of my journals.

What do I think? I think we, all of us in this nation are on the very brink of disaster. I think we are staring into the abyss I am afraid for us all. I wonder every single day if our systems will hold. Thus far, they have been falling apart without so much as a whimper from those we elect to act in our best interest and who take oaths to uphold the Constitution and our systems of government.

Speak truth to power is not new in our lexis, coined by the Quakers in the 1950’s, it is a commanding challenge, intended to be nonviolent, intended to codify our voices in our First Amendment and challenge injustice. Yet somehow this has become lost, somehow the courage to stand up, speak truth to power has been replaced with sniveling, groveling and speaking for power with no concern for truth. Somehow, somewhere in the past two years we the people have determined it is acceptable to set aside all moral reason and enable personal cowardice, political expediency and corruption as the new norm. Somehow, somewhere our new norm has become mean, no matter what side of the aisle you sit on mean is celebrated, activism encapsulated to mean agree with me or else and ugly is valued.

Oh, yes I am aware there are those who speak out, yet even they are speaking out for their own truth rather than a national truth, a national best interest despite the mantle they drape themselves in. Then there are those who question just where the national conscious disappeared to, yet they do so loudly and at every opportunity they seem to be part of the problem sometimes. So many of these new young guns are so far to the other side of the argument they are difficult to ‘hear’ without questioning their motives, their values and their ultimate goals. As these standard bearers of the ‘new’ age come into their own they are fascinating to watch, somewhat like a snake charmer is fascinating but one wonders always when that Cobra will strike, killing the Charmer and everyone else within range. With their sincerity and passion for breaking the middle and demanding their way or no way, they are the new Tea Party, ready to destroy everything in their path, throwing out everything and everyone they deem irrelevant or out of step.

Lately, my voice has been silenced by my utter dismay at the fervor some have shown to take on the any and all who are not aligned to them. What I mean by this is those who were once ‘normal’, once compassionate, once willing to listen, once willing to argue and debate even if passionately for their positions are no longer willing to do these things. Those who once cheered Michelle Obama saying, “when they go low, we go high”; now reach for the lowest point and swing with glee. The world is upside down, inside out and without boundaries. Those who once stood for something, even if I disagreed stand for nothing at all but the very ugliest of our nature and our common history. Those who once believed in something believe in nothing at all but are sheep following their ‘belief’ into disaster, willing to believe any lie so long at it is told by their side of the great divide.

I don’t just say this about one side or the other of the political spectrum, but about both sides. It seems we are at a breaking point, we have dumbed down the populace to such a degree it is better to believe a lie than to demand truth, better to inflate invention than hold not only our elected officials but ourselves to a higher standard. We willingly deliver into social media every single day memes that insult our friends and then ask, ‘what?’. We fail, miserably and frequently to understand what we say and do affects our relationships not just today but forever, or maybe we have sunk so low we don’t care. We willing defend the indefensible at the expense of life-long friendships and family rather than consider the consequence of our jumping into fray.

I must be honest, I do this myself. React to something I find offensive, then regret my actions and words immediately. Thus, my silence becomes deafening, even to my own ears. Afraid to speak, afraid to defend, afraid to react. Never have I found myself without words, never in my entire life have I found myself afraid to offend. Now though, today and in this toxic and terrible nation we have allowed to thrive around us all, now I am terrified.

Aren’t you?

Hard Stop Sanity

If I haven’t visited you lately I apologize, I had a very difficult time processing my feelings after the tragedy of Sandy Hook Elementary this past Friday. I have watched social media for the week, watched friends and family make their personal stands on the issues of gun control, mental health and a host of other surrounding issues. This is a disclaimer, I am not a mental health expert, I am not an expert on the Constitution nor am I an expert on all the issues surrounding firearms, murder rates or suicide. I am a parent and a grandparent, I am a victim of violent crime, I am a survivor of domestic violence and I am a citizen of the United States. I care about living in a civil and sane society in the future and I care about the future of my children and grandchildren.

_____________________________________________________________________________________

At what point, then, is the approach of danger to be expected? I answer, If it ever reach us it must spring up amongst us; it cannot come from abroad. If destruction be our lot we must ourselves be its author and finisher. As a nation of freemen we must live through all time, or die by suicide.

Abraham Lincoln, Young Men’s Lyceum of Springfield, Illinois January 27, 1838

We are complicit through our inaction, through our fear and our refusal to acknowledge the issues we create through greed, ignorance and ideology. Yes, I said it we created the Hell that sees our children dying in their classrooms, in the streets, in the mall. We are responsible for this mayhem, this chaos this vicious cycle.

We are a nation of paranoids, a nation of victims wrapped in flags with Bibles in one hand and high capacity military grade weapons in the other. What are we afraid of? Oh sure, the government is tyrannical and somehow we must protect ourselves (hint: even with the weapons you have they have better ones). Of course, you need these high capacity clips and assault weapons to defend your home (hint: if you have fired 100 rounds in 30 seconds Bible&Gunsyou have likely killed your own family along with the bad guys and if they aren’t down you aren’t getting out alive).

We should not be quick to jump to conclusions, we should not be quick to slap that ‘insanity’ label on giving us the excuse to wipe our hands and carry on with our mundane lives. The truth is, most spree murderers are not clinically ‘insane’, do not have long-term psychiatric problems and are not psychotic. The make-up of the mass murder is changing, what isn’t changing is access to high-capacity magazines and military guns making the death toll higher.

The meme of those who demand their Second Amendment rights remain sacrosanct:

  • Guns don’t kill people Kill
  • 64,999,987 legal gun owners killed no one yesterday
  • Know guns, know peace and safety. No guns, no peace nor safety.
  • Gun control is hitting what you aim at.
  • The right to buy weapons is the right to be free.

Don’t you just love some of those? Yeah, me too they make me all warm and fuzzy; not.

In light of the tragedies of recent years, does the above stupidity hold weight? Can we honestly stand aside and allow our nation to continue to hold the record for death by gun violence among other high income nations, is this what we should be proud of?

Just a small slice

Just a small slice

I am pragmatic; the monster is already out of the box. We cannot fix what is already so tragically broken. We cannot change the minds or hearts of those who believe the only way to a Civil society is by arming themselves, arming school teachers, arming college students in their classrooms and dorms. We cannot change a society convinced they must be armed to the teeth, in their homes, their cars and walking the streets to protect themselves from the government, those violent ‘others’ they heard about or the zombie apocalypse.

Let’s start with some facts; I think it is important to make this a non-partisan issue:

  • Gun owners are both ‘Liberal’ and ‘Conservative’
  • When the Constitution was written, guns were breach load muskets single shot
  • Slave and Land holders wrote the Constitution; in fact, within the first ten amendments slavery is ratified. We do occasionally see the error of our ways and correct them, the Constitution was not written on stone tables by a lightning bolt shot from on high.
  • Anyone is able to purchase any type of firearm, including military grade semi-automatic rifles and handguns without a background check or waiting period in the secondary market (gun shows and private sales, including the internet). Forty percent (40%) of all legally purchased firearms are purchased this way.
  • Anyone can purchase as much ammunition in any clip size as they want without any tracking, registration or license on the internet.
  • Approximately 10,000 people are murdered every year in gun violence, many of them teenagers.

There are those who say their right to bear arms, their right to conceal carry, their right to own any weapon and any clip size is inviolate. They say armed rebellion would be the result of any attempt at Gun Control, they say SCOTUS has confirmed their right in District of Columbia v Heller to be armed and dangerous under any and all circumstances and without restraint.

This is what I say; I say there must be some middle ground that satisfies all of us. There must be some middle ground that stops the senseless deaths of our children and the murderous rampages in our public places.

This is what I believe must happen if we are ever to begin to heal this nation:

  • Require national registration
  • Demand Conceal Carry permits only in the following circumstance and make this a federal mandate:
    • Show true need (e.g. over the road truck drivers, certain security personnel, off duty police)
    • Attend regular training
  • Require same background check and waiting period in secondary market as in gun stores
  • Create national mental health registry
  • Update criminal background check registry to include domestic violence
  • Do not allow restoration of civil rights after time-served to allow gun purchase for violent criminals
  • Update background check to include Terrorist Watch List
  • Limit Clip Size to 10 rounds
  • Do not allow private purchase without background checks, make private sales illegal even between family members
  • Shut down internet sales of ammunition
  • Require gun safes in the home of all gun owners with children under 18
  • Raise the age limit to 25 for legal purchase and gun ownership
  • Require gun safety class before purchase
  • Change Stand your Ground laws to apply only to personal property / personal homes make this federal rather than state by state
  • Create a federal buy-back program to get illegal guns off the streets of our cities, give it two (2) years. Within the scope of the buy-back program, strengthen the laws and penalties for owning an illegal gun, selling a gun illegally and for using an illegal gun in the commission of a crime.

I don’t want to take your guns. I want sanity and safety. I would rather not call it gun control, I would rather call it Gun Sanity. These days I am afraid to go to the theater, the mall or anywhere else. If you are a gun owner, frankly I am afraid of you. Is this really the world any of us want?

http://www.academia.edu/1199492/Hegemonic_Masculinity_and_Mass_Murderers_in_the_United_States

http://www.bradycampaign.org/facts/gunviolence?s=1

http://fivethirtyeight.blogs.nytimes.com/2012/12/18/in-gun-ownership-statistics-partisan-divide-is-sharp/

http://www.guardian.co.uk/news/datablog/2012/jul/22/gun-homicides-ownership-world-list

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