Remember Political Correctness? It was so 90s, so silly, and based in developing “sensitive” terms that didn’t accept culturally-based “norms” as moral points of reference. Everyone made fun of such silly terms as “vertically challenged,” and “differently abled,” and the whole thing faded away, right?
Wrong. Just like disco didn’t go away in the 70s, but evolved into “House” or “Dance” music, Political Correctness never went away. All of the underlying assumptions of PC have been alive and well the whole time. They were based in the concept of “Liberating Intolerance” by Herbert Marcuse. Marcuse held the Orwellian position that the only way to achieve the goal of Tolerance was to display intolerance of the existing ideas and institutions that stood in the way of that goal. It begins with assuming a point of view to be correct, and then in showing intolerance toward all those who disagree. This is the “correct” part of PC.
Today, it can be found in the backlash of the passage of Prop. 8 in California. Identifiable subgroups of those who worked to pass the proposition have been targetted for hostility, vandalism, misrepresentation, and poorly focused economic repercussions. Strangely, this includes members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, who have seen church buildings and temples vandalized, but also Blacks who overwhelmingly supported the proposition. At maximum, Mormons constituted 2.4% of the vote about Prop. 8, and not a dime coming from the Church itself spent on the campaign. And not all Mormons, Catholics, Blacks, Hispanics, Asians, or Muslims supported Prop. 8, and not all gay people opposed it — these are not monolithic groups that all agree about much of anything — but the backlash against them hasn’t taken this into account. There has been no allegation that anything done in support of Prop. 8 was illegal or done improperly — the anger is because these people dared to make use of the legal process to advocate for their position in opposition to the “correct” point of view. And now they are being punished for their “incorrect” activities, even when that punishment itself is illegal.
Now, I am well aware that the self-appointed punishers of this “incorrect” behavior are an overly vocal minority of the people who disapprove of Prop. 8. However, they still add up to a significant number of people, and they’re ramping up steam by exploiting the general ignorance and prejudice against these religious and racial minorities in a fashion that I find disturbing. It is quite possible to disagree on these issues civiling yet strongly, and these people are instead choosing divisive and punitive tactics to intimidate those who might dare to stand in their way.
Has the time come yet when we’ve been outraged enough that people have the gall to disagree with us? Have we called enough names yet? Have we vandalized enough property yet? Is it yet time to take a few deep breaths and make peace with the idea that reasonable people can disagree with us, and that there’s an odd chance that we might be wrong about something that’s worthy of consideration? That it’s as important to treat people we disagree with well as it is to be right about what we believe in?
The problem with PC isn’t the silly word games — it’s the arrogant assumption that there is only one side of a debate that has merit, and that the other side of the debate is to be shouted down and never, ever listened to or treated with respect. This is not the way to a civil society — it’s the way to anger and violence. I choose civility. How about you?