Ever since the now well-known response by Donald Trump, one of the candidates for President — in case you hadn’t heard — in which he said, “A big problem this country has is being politically correct. I don’t have time to be politically correct,” I’ve contemplated just what being politically correct is.
I took some time and did a bit of research. I discovered that, “Political Correctness,” aka PC, has a past. The first known reference that I found was from Justice James Wilson in 1793 when he noted that it was politically correct to say, “People of the United States” instead of “the United States” when referring to the government.
I thought it an appropriate distinction, one that could have helped the Supreme Court Justices’ deliberations when they made the non-sequitur decision that corporations were people. Maybe not, but that’s not the point of this column.
Further research informed me that many interpret political correctness in ideological terms particularly when the language of the government expects people to speak and act in certain ways. The examples used, neither of which are good situations, were communism that called for government control of resources and fascism in Germany that resulted in the attempted genocide of a race of people.
The idea is that it was politically correct, and lifesaving for many, to speak those views whether you believed them or not. Current examples of subjugation to the “party line” or risking death exist today in North Korea and parts of the Middle East.
No defense of PC
Some say political correctness exists in the United States in the extreme and point to the “cleansing” of language so as not to offend a group of people different from ourselves. Examples are referring to undocumented aliens instead of illegal aliens, chairperson instead of chairman or “Black lives matter” versus “All lives matter.”
Seems to me that making comparisons, especially using those examples, of the American PC movement with Nazi Germany is a bit of a reach, but I probably will be accused of being politically correct if I say so out loud.
Liberals or progressives of the 1960s often are credited with the current political correctness or PC movement which may explain the conservative fervor to rally against PC. Regardless, I have no defense of PC in its historical or current popular context. In my view it’s been rendered a meaningless term that covers anything from common courtesy to minute detail of words that challenge the most PC person to comply without going insane like Pavlov’s dogs.
Candidate Trump makes my point by using the denial of political correctness as a sanction for humiliating others and name calling to the cheering throngs who seem relieved by the freedom to “tell it like it is.”
I wish it weren’t like it is and for many it’s not. Not everyone gets out of their car to berate an apparent senior driver for holding her up while he waited for a parking place close to the door of the store (actual story). But there must be many who like the driver are filled with rage and are seeking a means to release their anger or at least have someone else express it. Trump made PC the target.
Words may be all we think we have and may be all we have. Someone, smarter than I, said long ago that we have power in our words. I don’t think he meant we should throw words at each other like bullets intended to destroy. Anger never gets resolved by angry words. The relief is temporary only to build again.
I think the writer meant the power of words that enhances the dignity of human purpose.
What’s in a name?
PC has become a swear word on both sides of our country’s brain. So, when it comes to Political Correctness, I’m with Trump; we should drop it altogether. Let’s eliminate the politics of personal destruction. I am sure that Trump will agree, since he only asks for fairness and this seems fair enough to me. Trump Political Correctness with Political Civility!
As an aside, I just can’t resist commenting on Trump being named “Trump,” a name that could have come from the pen of Dickens well known for his colorful and descriptive names of his characters. I wonder if “Trump” is his real name. Perhaps we should see his birth certificate.
Bertha D. Cooper is retired from a 40-plus year career as a health care administrator focusing on the delivery system as a whole. She still does occasional consulting. She is a featured columnist at the Sequim Gazette. Reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org.