Wednesday, October 19, 2016

The Bloody Death of Political Correctness

Was it back in the 90's that the concept of "political correctness" was born?  I decided to check the internet for the answer...what I dug up was something entirely different than my understanding of the term.  Apparently, it has always been a pejorative.  I was under the mistaken impression that it had at one time been merely a term descriptive of the act of choosing language that did not insult or offend anyone.Whatever the original definition of the term, I think we can safely say that it lies at the heart of much of the ugliness that swirls around us today. 

There was a time--and I believe it WAS in the nineties--when there was a movement toward a kinder, gentler voice in America.  It was almost as if we felt we had solved the issues that had brought forth the harshest, most strident voices of ignorance, selfishness and hatred in our land:  We had addressed civil rights, women's rights, immigrants' rights, the rights of the handicapped, waged our war on poverty and removed the stigma from the poor, the addicted, the homeless; and now it was time to speak with respect and dignity toward all.  A laudable ideology, really...which soon careened out of control.

Special interest groups, each waving its own set of "offensive" terms, seemed to come out of the woodwork.  There was no one you couldn't offend with any words, innocent or otherwise.  As long as we were about the business of extending respect to groups that had long suffered blatant disrespect in America, we suddenly had to extend that courtesy every group, no matter how small or off-the-wall.  When it came to the "liberal" media, in our effort not to offend anyone, our voices became softer and softer, our reporting less and less relevant.  Eventually, the tightrope of inoffensive language became a gag...and a noose with which the rising right-wing contrived to hang us.

The right wing smelled blood; they understood that the American people were becoming frustrated with the trickle of watered-down information that made it past the dam of "political correctness."  They understood that the electorate was starving for substance.  And so, the concept of right wing "Political In-correctness" was born.  With personalities like Rush Limbaugh leading the charge, right-wing talk radio was born.  Soon, conservative talk radio dominated the airwaves in every market.  Conservative radio's success paved the way for conservative television--most notably Fox "News," which was launched in 1996.

When it came to swinging the tone of the national debate back toward the center (and sanity) the Right Wing hasn't been any more competent than the left had been.  We were dragged past the center so quickly we didn't have the chance to wave...on the way to the far, far right, where paranoia and ignorance dominate the conversation, and truth is not only not the message, but a hindrance thereto.  Political correctness vanished without a trace under the tank treads of the "politically incorrect" movement.

Political incorrectness didn't stop at peeling off the layers of inoffensive pabulum that had smothered frank discussion of the issues for a decade.  The right wing gambled--correctly--that the public would jump at the chance to shake off the shackles of "political correctness" and revel in the opportunity to freely express themselves again.  And how easily we all tumbled into that pit of self-indulgence!

But frank discussion of the issues wasn't going to give the right wing what they wanted.  They wanted to dominate the conversation.  They wanted to own it.  They didn't want to have to talk people into seeing things their way; they wanted to threaten them into it.  They wanted people to be afraid not to join in the debate as they intended to frame it.  To that end, they didn't just do away with the annoying over-niceness of political correctness.   They obliterated all vestiges of courtesy, decorum, civility, empathy--deeming those softer, saner emotions counter to their goal.  Which would be reached much quicker through rudeness, bullying, threats of violence...and bald-faced lies. 

So, here we are.  In a world where courtesy has been labeled weakness; where if you care about the less fortunate you are a sucker;  where the Constitution applies to MY rights and MY freedom, but not to yours.  Where hatred, violence, lies and disrespect flow like a river of blood, deeper and deeper,  across the television, the radio and the internet, drowning anything and everything else.  Where a bottomless pit yawns between conservative and liberal ideologies, and anyone trying to bridge that gap tumbles headlong into eternal damnation.

Political correctness is dead all right.  And if we don't find a way to deal with the monster that killed it, it's going to do away with us as well.   


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