The Fort Hood Massacre results in charges of "workplace violence." A rodeo clown's sense of humor gets him fired. Seattle employees are advised not to use the terms "brown bag" or "citizen" in order to avoid offending people. Where does it stop?
The 1988 film “Biloxi Blues” featured Eugene Jerome, a young man from New York who finds himself in army basic training in Biloxi, Mississippi. When confronted by his drill sergeant, Eugene exclaims:
Man it’s hot. It’s like Africa hot. Tarzan couldn’t take this kind of hot. I don’t think I can stay here if it’s going to be this hot.
Ever since seeing that movie, whenever the weather heats up, my family has had to listen to me say, “It’s Africa hot.” In fact, if it’s really cold out, I say, “It’s Africa cold.” If I’m exhausted, I’m “Africa tired.” You get the point. It never occurred to me that using “Africa” as an adjective could get me in any hot water until a neighbor let me know in no uncertain terms that she felt that my odd twist of the English language was racist. Solely because I referred to a continent, I was now a racist! It seemed that I had crossed the invisible, ever changing border of the scourge of our times: political correctness.
I imagine that the concept of “political correctness” probably evolved from a desire to be civil, to be considerate to others in speech and actions. Given my previously expressed aspiration for civil political discourse, I certainly have no objection to such a goal. But at some point, this concept has been hijacked by those who are unable to tolerate a dissenting opinion; indeed, those who feel that if speech offends, it must be wrong. If you don’t believe me, take a walk on any college campus today.
Political correctness has virtually outlawed the word “Christmas” from our schools, textbooks, stores, advertising, etc. As a result, those who are devout followers of the idea of political correctness have inadvertently perverted the very idea of freedom of religion. Now, rather than an environment of religious tolerance, we unfortunately have intolerance.
A prison is a “correctional facility.” Drug addicts are no longer engaged in criminal behavior because they are now “victims.” I once saw a reference not to drug dealers, but to “undocumented pharmacists.” Unfortunately, it won’t be long before this, too, becomes part of the politically correct vernacular.
In the world of political correctness, there are no Americans. Instead, we are now African-Americans, Mexican-Americans, Irish-Americans, Asian-Americans, Italian-Americans, etc. My wife and I were both born in California. So were my children. Aren't we “Native Americans” too?
My ancestors traveled from Ireland to Canada in the early 19th century. My parents moved to the U.S. in 1948, so I suppose that makes me an Irish-Canadian-American in the eyes of some. But ask me and I will tell you that I’m an American. My ethnicity in no way affects the essence of my being an American, and I can be proud of my ancestry without hyphenating my Americanism. This "Balkanization" of America has not provided unity, only unfortunate disunity. The country is more politically polarized than ever before, and the fear of offending has kicked open, honest discussion to the curb.
Political correctness has harmed our ability to communicate, argue, and debate as the fear of offending has nearly become an Orwellian mandate. Indeed, the very idea of freely communicating in any sense, without conflict or censorship, has become markedly impaired by this destructive philosophy. It’s a controversial subject, and it’s bound to make some people hot.
Mr. McGirr serves as a City Councilman for the city of Rancho Santa Margarita. He resides in RSM with his wife, Julie, and their three children.