The first time I heard the term “Politically Correct” I was in Dr. Beausoliel’s sociology class. I remembered sitting there in the lecture hall horrified about this political correctness ideal, worried about how this might impact on free speech. If we all started censoring everything we had to say would anyone be able to really speak their minds? I raised my hand to bring this very point to the floor- thinking to myself there is no way she will ever know who I am, there are too many of us.
There was a little steel in her voice as she began her response but once she got into her grove she was all business. As far as she was concerned people had for too long exercised their right to free speech without any sense of responsibility. Negating the very real impact it had on other people’s lives. The jokes, the racial slurs, the offhand remarks kept people down. It kept them from the good jobs, the promotions; it colored how people saw who they were, and what they were capable of. Political correctness, she explained, was an effort to make broad social and political changes and redress injustices caused by prejudice. She reminded us of the power of the word- the destruction that it can cause, and that it is our responsibility to change or avoid using language that might offend anyone, especially with respect to gender, race, or ethnic background.
I could get behind that.
But the politically correct movement did not stop there.
That was the golden age of political correctness, when being politically correct meant speaking and acting in a considerate manner to others. Now the term suggests something that is very restrictive; almost oppressive. Cripes when Santa is warned 'Ho Ho Ho' is offensive to women, you know that the train ran off the rails somewhere. And now the backlash against political correctness seems to have given some the license to toss out the whole ideal of "speaking and acting in a considerate manner to others" and revert back to old habits that really were better off dead.
You may be wondering what exactly sent me off on this particular rant today.
Long story short, I host and visit several forums on Delphi. One of them is a Canadian based spot I am very fond of. These types of boards tend to build groups of people who remain at the forum for years, they get to know each other, they trade pictures of their kids, stories about their lives, send Christmas cards and birthday greetings. They become a little community of friends. Sure, some people come and go- but a hard core group of individuals remain and are the heart of that community. Lest you think this all sounds too rosy- it isn’t always so. No, each group usually has at least one member who likes to stir the pot, or assert their perceived intellectual, financial, or moral superiority over other members. Sometimes it is pretty obvious, sometimes it is more subtle. But it is a pattern of behavior that only ends when the member leaves (or is booted out).
So it was (yes we are getting down to the nitty gritty of it now) that I signed in yesterday to read yet another “Newfie Joke” from this poster. Again, pitting the Newfoundlander as some hapless fool, stupid by nature or by drink, a person who cannot reasonably manage their way through a paper bag. And I had enough. I don’t mind a good natured joke- I have been known to tell one myself, but when someone is constantly putting a specific group of people down and never in a manner that is clear it is in harmless fun- well let’s just say it gets old. Tired. Stale.
So, I turned the joke back on him- and he did not like that so much. He posted some garbage about having to be politically correct these days, and people not being able to take a joke. Isn’t it funny how when the shoe was on the other foot he did not like the fit?
Hey; if he can tell the "joke" I certainly have the right to call him on it, especially when it seems to be a pattern of poor behavior, in a public forum. What you do and say in your own home is your business- what you put out there for all to see, well that can net you something nasty. Something with teeth. After all, if we replaced the term Newfie in all those Newfie jokes with another n word, we would have a whole other kettle of fish.