‘Great disease’ of correctness

“We call it ‘Political Correctness.’ The name originates as something of a joke, literally in a comic strip, and we tend still to think of it as only half-serious. In fact, it’s deadly serious. It is the great disease of our century, the disease that has left tens of millions of people dead in Europe, in Russia, in China, indeed around the world. It is the disease of ideology. PC is not funny. PC is deadly serious.” This is a quote from an article written in 2000 by Bill Lind, “Accuracy in Academia.”

Have we gone too far? Or, are our feelings more easily bruised these days? Watching Bill O’Reilly the other evening, I realized that I am not the only one feeling that maybe we are just a little too far past center on this issue. When is it OK to speak of a particular race, ethnic group, gender or someone’s sexual preference without rubbing someone the wrong way? I say this not as a racist, bigot, homophobe, feminist or anything other than a woman who finds herself measuring every word and action that is spoken for fear of being classified as a something that I am not; and I don’t believe I am alone here.

Growing up my mother had a favorite saying: it doesn’t take money to show you care. It doesn’t take money to be clean, neat and respect your body and your property. It doesn’t take money to keep your home, yard and person in a neat and orderly manner. And yet we see young boys with their pants down around the middle or bottom of their derrieres. We see children, young people and adults be-bopping down the street using foul language and making rude gestures.

We hear words spoken that make us shudder, and hear African Americans call each other the “N” word, and yet become upset if it is said by someone of a different race. There are “Gay Pride” parades, and “Black History” months.” What about just parades where everyone is included without a label? What about a month to celebrate the many different cultures that make-up the fabric of this great nation? What about “we the people” really meaning everyone? What about a balanced education for all students at the level at which the student is capable of learning, instead of at the level the teacher is required to teach?

But that would not be “politically correct” as it could ostracize the student, and it might hurt their feelings.

And then we have the welfare system that issues EBT cards rather than sending checks because they might be difficult to cash and people might know the recipient is on welfare. And food stamps are no longer called food stamps because of the stigma the name creates. One is almost assured of receiving Social Security disability payments if they say their lack of ability to speak or read the English Language is a deterrent to securing employment. Shouldn’t one pay into the Social Security system before receiving monthly benefits? Just asking.

But we can’t say anything about these types of things or speak about race, gender, religion, sexual orientation, disabilities or family dynamics because whatever we say can be misinterpreted and feelings might be hurt. Free speech is really not free. Political Correctness has taken care of that.

Now I am not advocating that everyone be able to say anything they want to or about anyone they want. I am not saying that there is not a disparity in salaries between men and women doing the same or similar jobs. I am not saying that racism and gender bias doesn’t exist. I am, however, saying that we as a country need to stop and think about where we are going and just how far we want to go with labeling everything that has the potential of hurting someone’s feelings as being insensitive and not politically correct.

When Barbara Walters was asked if she was a feminist, she said no. When she was asked if she thought there was a war on women, she said no. After her 50-plus years in the media spotlight with an almost impeccable reputation, I believe she is correct and I am in agreement with her.

Is there bias? Yes. Is there bigotry? Yes. Is there a component of the population who is racist? Yes. But not everyone who finds themselves in a situation where a wrong word is spoken, or an opinion is given without thinking about their audience first is cruel and insensitive. It is a fact; people are different. Look around you and ask yourself where you fit on the spectrum of doing the right thing most of the time.

We have all at one time or another spoken a word or words that we would like to retract, but does that make us un-politically correct?

Not really. Have we gone too far as a country when it comes to this thing called “political correctness?” What is important is that we care enough to do the right thing, and doing is not always as easy as caring.

I believe there are three types of people, those who care and do something about it, those who care and only talk about doing something, and then there are those who just don’t care. Caring is synonymous with respect and it doesn’t take money to respect yourself and your property. It doesn’t take money to respect others or their property. It just takes personal pride in yourself, your city, village or town – it takes action and honest caring which may not always come across as politically correct.

Have a great day.

Vicki Westling is a Dunkirk resident. Send comments to editorial@observertoday.com