Friday, November 24, 2023

The Tyranny of Political Correctness

Democrats lose elections because they are too cautious.

A lot of folks on the Left are amazed that Trump says the weirdest things and his supporters don't seem to care.  Meanwhile, on their own side, any Democrat who says even one word wrong either has to go on an apology tour and flagellate himself for all to see, or is banished from the tribe forever.  Democrats hold themselves up to high - impossible - standards and then fail at them miserably.

I am not talking about run-of-the-mill corruption, sexual harassment, or unfortunate incidents where drunken Congressmen say, "Do you know who I am?" as if it will fix everything.  No, those louts get booted out and get what they deserve.  What I am talking about is this new level of nonsense where calling someone by the wrong pronoun is akin to murdering them.  It is ridiculous on its face - no one addresses anyone by their pronoun!  "Hey, She, can you help me a second?" - said  no one ever.

Political correctness took the nice idea of treating people decently and took it to extreme new levels.  George Carlin addressed this in his "soft language" video.  We can't call people "crippled" anymore, or even "handicapped" but --differently-abled-- which is a term that makes no sense at all.  As Carlin points out, since when did "crippled" become a slur?  When did all these common descriptors become slurs and who decided they were?

Don't get me wrong, there are slurs out there - some so odious that we code them.  The "N-word" has a long history of use as a slur - and never any use as a common descriptor.  It was a derogatory term that was said with hatred on the lips.  But for some reason, other words, such as "Black" and "Negro" are now considered - by some - to be racial epithets.  Even the phrase "Colored People" is deemed dated and perhaps racist, but as one cartoonist noted, "People of Color" is deemed not only acceptable, but politically correct.  Someone needs to inform the NAACP - or is it the NAAPoC today?

Some even go looking for offense - in fact a lot of people do.  Some folks object to the Spanish word "Negra" which means "black" in English.  Modelo makes a beer called "Modelo Negra" which means, in English, "Modelo Black."  Yet some took offense to this, claiming it was an N-word slur, when in fact, it has nothing to do with that.  Well, it might, if, as some people believe, even the word "Black" is a slur.

We went down that road in the 1990s with "African-American" in place of "Black" which accomplished absolutely nothing except to make everyone look foolish.  The use of the term has died down since those days and "Black" is back (and beautiful, baby!) in the lexicon.  Maybe we are turning the tide on this nonsense.

But getting to the point - who decides what is and is not politically correct? - the history of this stuff is kind of murky and the goalposts keep getting shifted over time.

Take for example, the word "Midget" which for years was just a word used to describe shorter people who usually had one of two conditions that caused them to have a below-average height.   As far as I know, the term was never intended or used in a derogatory manner.  In fact, the "Little People of America" organization, founded by the famous actor Billy Barty, was originally called "Midgets of America" until the Dwarfs protested and the name was changed to the "Midgets and Dwarfs of America" until it was decided that "Midget was a slur" and once again the name was changed to "Little People of America."

This shit is just exhausting.

It reminds me of my tenure as President of the Syracuse Gay Student Association, which morphed to the Gay and Lesbian Student Association because the Lesbians (who never attended any of our functions or held any offices) demanded they be included.  The name was later changed to the "Lesbian and Gay Student Association" because the Lesbians (again, not attending or involved) objected to us greedy gays putting ourselves first, which of course we did intentionally because we all hate Lesbians, right?  I am being sarcastic in that last comment in case it is not clear.  One hallmark of the Politically Correct is a complete and total lack of sense of humor whatsoever.

Like I said, this shit is exhausting and time-consuming and while appearing to accomplish something, actually accomplishes nothing or in fact, sets back whatever cause you have.  It is not only re-arranging the deck chairs on the Titanic (as it is sinking) it is akin to opening the seacocks and letting water in even faster.  Political Correctness gives your opposition the ammunition they need to argue that your cause is over-stated or even ridiculous.

What's more, the people who are most affected by this nonsense are never really consulted.  The "Little People of America" is a great organization and who doesn't love midgets little people?  But was some sort of vote held with regard to their stance on the word "midget" which they now consider a slur and have petitioned the FCC to add it to their list of no-no words?   If you canvassed all the little people of the world, would they agree with this?

Were Blacks asked about "African-American" before that came out?  Who decided this stuff?  Because no one asked me when they came out with this alphabet soup of sexual orientations and genders, as well as the plethora of flags - many so jarring and ugly as to make you wonder about the alleged fashion sense of gays.

The truth is, no one asked us or anyone about any of this.  Sure, maybe some "organization" claiming to represent a "Community" will say they speak for that slice of the electorate.  But often they don't.  PETA - the People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals - often sets off these social stinkbombs by putting on stunts.  They put out press releases asking people to call fish "sea kittens" or rename "Fishkill, New York" which is actually a Dutch name that has nothing to do with killing fish.  Often their antics are an embarrassment to real animal rights activists and to vegans and vegetarians.  They make the animal rights movement look ridiculous and thus easier for mainstream Americans to mock and ignore.

Again, it is not only rearranging the deck chairs on the Titanic, but drilling massive holes in the hull, below the waterline.

And maybe this nonsense has traction with those waiting in their idling SUVs in the parking lot of the Montessori school, or at an uptown cocktail party in Manhattan, or at a fabulous drag show in San Francisco.  But the rest of America is just confused by it all and wonders why, suddenly, they are the enemy when in their minds, they did nothing wrong.

What makes a slur is an interesting question.  I noted before that the word "Jew" can be both a benign descriptor, or a slur, depending on how it is used and the intonation involved.  "Are you a Jew?" someone asks.  "Oh, yes," they reply.  "Oh great, so am I!  Which temple do you go to?"

But the word can also be hurled as an insult, spit out with invective as a slur.   Yet no one is calling for the term to be stricken from the lexicon and replaced with "Judeo-American" or some sort of nonsense like that.

Political Correctness only harms Democrats - in two ways.  First, it causes Democratic candidates to walk this tightrope of correctness, always making sure they use the right words and the "Newspeak" of the day.  Woe be to the candidate who didn't get today's new crib sheet on political wording.  If they say the wrong word - off with their heads!  Meanwhile, their Republican counterpart can speak with ease, knowing that whatever they say, it won't matter much in the polls.  As a result, Democrats come across as wooden and inauthentic - carefully reading scripted words (which were all carefully vetted) from a teleprompter.  They have no opinions of their own, only that of focus groups and speech writers.  This is what sunk Hillary's Presidential campaigns - twice.  She just didn't feel "real" - but she was Politically Correct! (Well, except the time she tried to slur Obama with the Muslim Birther nonsense).

The second problem is that middle-class and blue-collar workers - who historically were the base of the Democratic Party - were confused by Political Correctness and sensed its in-authenticity.  Hillary never bothered to campaign in many blue-collar manufacturing States - and lost them to Trump, whose meandering speeches, while seeming incoherent to coastal elites, made sense to the working class.  If you've never installed a modern toilet, maybe Trump's speeches about flushing 18 times sound humorous.  But a real plumber (not "Joe the Plumber") nods his head and agrees.  Or the homeowner who is flustered by all of this new "green" tech that just seems to cost a lot more and not provide him with any benefits.

Then they are told they are evil, despicable people because they believe that maybe it isn't fair for a transgender athlete to compete on the women's track team.  And maybe sex-change gender realignment gender affirmation surgery shouldn't be done on minors or paid for by the government or health insurance.  And no, threatening to kill yourself unless you get it doesn't make it "life-saving surgery."  No wonder the working class thinks America has gone too soft and introspective - there are real injustices in the world and not having the genitals of your choice isn't one of them.

But instead, these concerns are bulldozed over and labeled "Transphobia" and people are shamed for even having an opinion about it.  And as we know, shaming is one of the ten irrational ideas.  "How Dare YOU!" people say - I get that a lot, particularly from people who have no real argument to make.  Shaming is the second-to-last refuge of the scoundrel.

The use of pronouns is not a hill I am willing to die on.  And in this instance, this may be a literal thing.  We have people on the Right who are threatening civil war and literally threatening to kill people.  The number one Republican candidate for President is threatening to exterminate "vermin" if elected.  I said it before and I will say it again, when you drive political opinions, no matter how odious, underground, they will fester and ferment there until they explode.  And we are seeing this explosion today in the US and the Western world in general, as people are outright calling for a fascist takeover or admiring Nazism.

Is Political Correctness to blame for this? Yes, I think so, in part.  Since it really accomplished nothing except cater to the touchy-feely crowd, it was easy to dismiss and mock.  But in some instances, it resulted in ridiculous outcomes - teachers and even administrators being fired for "using the wrong pronouns."  Many school systems are devolving into The Lord of the Flies (required reading, until banned!) as it is, and here we are giving the kids yet more ammunition to use against teachers.

And did all this "PC" talk result in less bullying?  I think not - you read about bullying more and more today, particularly online.  When I was in school, "bullying" was being pummeled in dodge-ball.  Today, it means being stomped to death.  Did Political Correctness make this any better or just put a target on people's backs?  To me, punishing bullies would take precedence over using the "right words" but somehow those priorities are reversed.

Maybe the pendulum will swing back the other way.  Perhaps people, scared by the language Trump has been using, will reject him and his philosophies in the next election.  But I wouldn't count on it.  A lot of people will vote actual Nazi, if it means tax cuts or less regulations for their "industry" - you know, things that prevented them from outright theft, for example.

And we have to ask ourselves whether all this touchy-feely nonsense was worth it or accomplished anything.  Did banishing the word "midget" make things better for little people?  Was it ever a slur?  Did the brief heyday of "African-American" really improve the lives of Blacks, or did it just point out to many of them that the well-meaning efforts by liberals really aren't helping them much?  Do we really need more letters and maybe a few numbers as well for LBGTQRSTUV+ or maybe we can kind of lump ourselves together into one group (which the LBGTQ+ moniker already does)?

This is one reason I was against Gay Marriage and was surprised when a largely conservative Supreme Court legalized it on a technicality ("Constitution doesn't say you can't!").  I mean, it was a pleasant surprise, but the pendulum of society swings one way and then the other - and if you are under that pendulum, well, too bad for you.  This new swing to the Right is not some anomaly, but a reaction to liberal social values and how many in the working-class see them as failing America.

The problem is, of course, that many of these far-Left ideas, like abolishing bail, de-funding the Police (whatever that means) and letting criminals go free, might have traction in some far-Left enclaves, but not with mainstream America. Even in liberal San Francisco, ordinary working class people are puzzled as to why the rights of criminals and the homeless (another term of political correctness that supplanted "bums," "hobos," or "drug addicts") trump their own.

After all, the guy who gets up every day to go to work is the one who supports our society and makes it work. He pays the taxes that support all our social programs. Yet he has to avoid stepping in human feces on his sidewalk and hope his car wasn't broken into again, every morning.  How long before Democrats lose them?  Or have they already lost them?  Recall that California has had its share of Republican Governors - Reagan and Schwarzenegger for example - and could again, the way things are going.

Maybe Political Correctness and its brethren, Identity Politics, need to go away for good and we need, as a nation, to stop being so introspective and sensitive all the time.  Maybe we need to stop taking offense at words, and stop using "soft language" as George Carlin argued.

Because, when you get right down to it, language is an exchange of symbols which have an agreed-upon meaning among people.  And when you change the language, you literally are changing how people think.  And when you tell people what they can and cannot say, then you are literally telling them how to think.  And people just hate that.

I would rather have real security and real advancements than some new letter to the alphabet or some new gender to recognize or some new "soft word" to describe yet another thin slice of the electorate.  Slurs are slurs, but ordinary words should not be turned into slurs by "community organizations" who are not elected by the people and who do not represent the will of the people.

This is why we are getting push-back!