O Political Correctness, Where Art Thou?

I am frightened. I am honestly frightened for America right now, frightened for our collective soul. Frightened for what we’re becoming. I have been listening to a podcast called Trumpcast, and I should probably stop. On this podcast, the hosts look at Donald Trump’s candidacy as a phenomenon, what this phenomenon says about Mr. Trump himself, what it says about the GOP, what it says about us as a nation. In a recent episode, a psychotherapist was interviewed, regarding the way his patients have developed anxieties that are in some way based on the Trump phenomenon. I am wondering if I ought to give that therapist a call.

I’m certainly not thrilled at the idea of a President Trump, but that’s not what frightens me most. There are enough checks and balances in our political system to prevent him from destroying the country, no matter what the demagogues say. We survived Nixon. We’ll survive Trump, if it comes to that.

But what is upsetting me is how it seems like the kind of rhetoric that Trump engages in is spilling over to the general public. It seems more and more acceptable to demonize people, to verbally attack people, to talk about how much of a “victim” we are, and how we need to “take back” what was ours. I don’t like Trump’s stated policies, but I can accept that perhaps I’m wrong about them. I don’t think it’s a good idea to build a wall on the border with Mexico, but I’m no expert…I could be wrong. However, it is just plain wrong to claim that Mexicans are mostly rapists and criminals.

Trump has proclaimed that he’s above and against “political correctness.” And I’ve heard people, regular people, people I see regularly, say that “political correctness has gone too far.” To be honest, I really don’t understand that at all. To me, political correctness means being polite. (I never noticed that “polite” is related to “politics” before. Interesting.) What does “political correctness” involve?

  • It involves altering our language to refer to people by the terms they themselves would prefer. I don’t understand how it hurts me to learn to say “African-American” instead of “colored.” If it makes other people feel better, and feel more welcome, how is it an infringement upon me? When white people complain that they can’t use the “n” word, but African-Americans can, I just shake my head. There are a few people in the world who can call me “Mikey,” and when they do it’s a term of endearment. But I’ll be really annoyed if someone else refers to me that way. We have different words we use in different contexts. Being a grown-up member of society involves learning which words are appropriate and helpful when.
  • It involves allowing a certain level of freedom and latitude to groups of people who have been oppressed in various ways. It’s why Gay Pride parades are appropriate, and Straight Pride parades are not. Straight people don’t need that. Every day is straight pride day. When was the last time anyone insinuated in any way that you’re gross or evil or sinful for loving someone of the opposite sex? Gay people experience that daily. Give them a break. It’s why “Black Lives Matter” is appropriate, and “White Lives Matter” is absurd, and “All Lives Matter” just misses the point. Everyone knows that white lives matter. Just ask Brock Turner. Not everyone seems aware that black lives matter.
  • It involves recognizing that the scales are not balanced. And until they are, the people in power and privilege need to be compassionate and thoughtful. And yes, whiteness, maleness, straightness still have privilege. That doesn’t mean that white straight cis-males always get what we want! I know that! For God’s sake, read the rest of my blog. I have multiple suicide attempts in my past. That doesn’t change the fact that I have privilege. Privilege doesn’t mean perfection…it means I have a leg up…and I do. For instance, I’m a pastor, not a “man pastor” (unlike the many “women pastors” there are.) I’m never, ever expected to speak on behalf of my race, nor is my race judged by my actions. And when I am in public holding my wife’s hand, nobody ever says, “Why do they need to flaunt that.” I have privilege. I’m not going to apologize for that, because it’s not my fault, but I will try to be aware and compassionate about it.

It would be stupid to have “Green Eyes pride day” or “Dimples Matter day” (unless they were light-hearted and silly…fine, whatever). Eye color or presence of dimples have never been a source of oppression in our culture, at least not that I’m aware of. But race, gender, sexual identity, religion, disability all have. Blue and brown eyes are equal…black and white skin are not. They should be, and hopefully one day they will be. But right now they are not.

Don’t even get me started on this ludicrous “War on Christmas.” I already went there.

Anyway, I started this post by saying I was frightened about the way our country is going, about the soul of our nation, and I think it’s because I am seeing such a sense of anger and self-righteousness, such a sense of victimhood and vengeance, and I see it cloaked behind words like “I’m tired of all this political correctness. I just call it as I see it.” Which to me is code for, “I don’t want to put any thought into why things are the way they are. I just want to yell and yell and yell, and blame other people.” And that scares me. For years, there’s been an anti-intellectualism at the core of America. (Does it go back to the beginning of the nation? I don’t know.) There’s a pride Americans take in being uneducated. And it seems like that pride is doubling down now. And I’ll tell you, Donald Trump knows how to stir that pot. I am so frightened at what we’re turning into. I’m wondering if we’re headed for a reprise of the 1950’s…what a great time in America. If you were white, straight, male, and Protestant, anyway. Eh, who cares. I’m all those things. The hell with the rest of you. Hey, I’m just calling it as I see it!

Or, to read a much briefer, more amusing, less angry version of this post, go to author Neil Gaiman’s Tumblr. He’s got a great idea there about political correctness.

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