Tuesday, June 10, 2014

A Topic From A Friend

Greetings All:

As I'm writing this, the big news is that Congressman Eric Cantor, the heir apparent to the Speaker of the House, lost his primary.  He's done.  Wow.  Even more amazing was that Rep. Cantor was defeated by a grass-roots candidate who had zero money.  Again, wow.  Well, congrats to Professor David Brat, the now Republican nominee for the 7th Congressional District in the Commonwealth of Virginia.  He chose to take on the establishment.  In a district that is 57% Republican, that decision makes him a solid bet to be a Congressman.

As I was watching the news, I put out on Facebook a message asking anyone if they wanted me to weigh in on a subject.  My friend Jana offered up the role of political correctness in our society.

OK, Jana, I'll give it a shot.  I started by doing a Google search on the subject and this is what came back: 

po·lit·i·cal cor·rect·ness
noun: political correctness; noun: political correctitude 
1.  the avoidance, often considered as taken to extremes, of forms of expression or action that are perceived to exclude, marginalize, or insult groups of people who are socially disadvantaged or discriminated against.
Political correctness is something that people talk about but might not be able to define.  If you're reading this, you might have a different take on this topic.  As I think about this subject, I recall the words of Supreme Court Justice Potter Stewart about obscenity:  "I know it when I see it."  (cite below).
I put a couple of cites below on political correctness, or "PC" as it is called.  I also want to give equal time on this issue from some sources.  Here's one quote from BJ Gallagher:
"If we must constantly self-censor any conversation pertaining to race, gender, religion, sexual orientation, or physical ability, then we are doomed to perpetuate the very barriers we say we want to overcome." 
Now, here's another take from Jordan White:
"The big deal is that language defines our existence. From the time we are first born we begin the process of categorization. Categories are useful tools when it comes to the very basic human functions. For instance, learning that it is right to share and wrong to hoard is a lesson every pre schooler should learn. But somewhere in the mix, we’ve created a very powerful false dichotomy which I believe is currently overruling our nation and limiting any chance of cooperation." 
Who are these people?  Honestly, I don't know.  I did a search under the PC and liked what they both had to say.  I judged them on what they wrote, not on what box they check on some form.  I suppose that might be an indictment of PC.  Then again, it might not have a thing to do with PC.
So is PC a good thing or a bad thing?  Is it uber-politeness?  Is it just good manners?  Truth be told, I'm not sure.  Years ago, I came up with the phrase, "Zip up your jacket and go stand in the cold light of truth."  I wonder if those who oppose political correctness do so because it impedes the truth.  Others might say that PC is way that we as a nation move towards that "more perfect union," as the Constitution states.
I'm trying to think of a time that I've been either the victim/target/beneficiary of PC and came up short.  Oh wait, I've got one.  This had to be like ten years ago.  Someone made a comment about, "You know, the term, 'fighting Irish' is derogatory."  I laughed.  To me, being half-Irish (O'Neill on my Mom's side) I suppose I had a bit of standing on this issue.  And I also suppose I am perpetuating the "stereotype" of the drunken Irish brawler.  
Yet here's the deal:  That's not my perspective.  I view "fighting Irish" as a group of brave patriots who stood up to the British Empire, who got knocked down and came back for more.   I think of the "Fighting 69th" Regiment from New York who impressed Robert E. Lee in the Civil War.  I think of the great Irish poets and heroes of the past who might have lost, but did so on their own terms.  
So I'm not offended by the term, "Fighting Irish."  Then again, I'm the one deciding if the term is offensive.  Maybe that's part of the combination of unlocking the safe of "that more perfect union," to understand that it's OK for an individual to decide what is offensive to them, but when for others, perhaps a pause is in order.
And while we're discussing understanding, please let me bring in Dr. Steven Covey.  In his great book, The Seven Habits of Highly Successful People, he discusses a habit, "Seek first to understand, then to be understood."  Not bad advice, for addressing political correctness, or for that matter, anything else.
To tie this topic together with the opening lines, I am sure the pundits are going through the election in Virginia and trying to figure out what just happened.  Did Eric Cantor just catch a bad old case of "Potomac Fever" and forgot where he came from?  Did his challenger tap into some local populist rage that de-throned DC royalty?  Were there politically incorrect things said in this primary campaign?  Perhaps, but I can't tell you what they were.  Or maybe political correctness had zero to do with this election.  
I hope I did this topic justice.  Please let me know your thoughts.  What did I miss?  Did I gloss over this hard yet important topic?  How could this post be better?  Thanks.
Be well my friends,

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