Political Correctness Metaphor

Been thinking about Political Correctness, because that’s something I do a lot. It began as a great idea, and despite a few who have used it as an excuse to be what I call Word Bullies, it’s still a good idea. Living in a liberal town and having almost entirely progressive friends, it’s easy for me to forget how much racism, sexism, and general fuckery there is to be had in the world.

And then it becomes an election year, and it all comes flooding back.

Here’s the thing about PCness (ha!), that I think it’s important to remember. If you think of social change as a pendulum, we can say that the conversation has swung way far in the direction of sensitivity. But that’s because we spent a long-ass time on the other side of things.

The further you go back in America’s history, the more atrocities we see encouraged or at least tolerated by the government. Colonists were seeking freedom–religious and otherwise. But they first order of business was tricking, murdering, and stealing from the natives who were already here–and didn’t murder or rob us when we got here. (Yeah, I know most of you aren’t related to original colonists, but without them there still might not be predominantly white people here). Then slavery, witch trials, religious tests not just for government, but for tons of jobs, and general acceptance in your community. Even since the Great Depression, we’ve gone from having KKK members all over government and police departments to…having much less of that. In our grandparent’s lifetime, lynchings happened with regularity, marital rape wasn’t considered possible because it was the husband’s right and the police shouldn’t be involved–ditto most domestic assaults including child abuse.

So yeah, we’re finally swinging back the other way. Now I don’t approve of passing moral judgements on people because of jokes that fell flat, insensitive comments, etc. In general, I don’t think people should lose their jobs for being racist (exceptions for teachers, cops, and other jobs where that can compromise your duties). I don’t believe in Hate Crimes Legislation, if only because we should punish people for their actions, not their thoughts. I think people can say something stupid or thoughtless and yet not necessarily be branded Racist For Life.

You know how in the spring when you start opening the windows and letting in natural light? One of the first things you notice is how friggin’ filthy your house got. So you figure you’d better at least vacuum and dust a few things. But the more stuff you clean, the more you notice the cobwebs and cat hair and collection of milk ring caps under every goddamn shelf. And before you know it, you’re scrubbing out your kitchen cabinets, moving shelves, dusting behind the microwave–vowing to get rid of every last bit of dirt–it’s not gonna hide from YOU, by Zod.

Well, that’s what’s happening to Political Correctness. It’s not enough to just get people to stop using racial slurs at parties or slapping secretary’s asses at the office. PCness (giggity!) wants to ensure that whether you’re a racial or religious minority, a chick, have a disability or a mental illness, are gay or fat or super skinny or trans or atheist or you pass out if you eat gluten–that you’re free to live your life without taking a constant barrage of shit for it. And that’s a good thing. Trigger Warnings too, are a way to be respectful to people who are dealing with things that you may not be. Complaining about them because you personally don’t need them makes you kind of a dick. Being kind and respectful isn’t a hardship–or if it is, you might just want to examine your own sense of self-importance instead of blaming people for the inconvenience of deserving basic human courtesy.

So while most of my PC-related posts are about how stifling language is dangerous and counterproductive, I do think it’s important that we remember that there’s a reason all this is happening.

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