I’m being bullied. And this bully is so strong that I can’t seem to escape him. He’s everywhere. On the streets I walk on and the job I go to. And what’s worse, this bully has a lot of friends ready to pummel me if I try to stand up against him. Thus, I must be silent to avoid his fury. Eat my words to avoid his wrath. And if there are moments I find myself brave enough to speak, I must carefully censor each word lest he be thrown into a violent rage.
This bully’s name?
And my first politically incorrect act of rebellion today? Quoting Donald Trump .
“I think the big problem this country has is being politically correct… “I’ve been challenged by so many people and I don’t, frankly, have time for total political correctness. And to be honest with you, this country doesn’t have time, either.”
And though I have an exponentially deep disdain for Trump’s political and personal actions, I do believe in the point he makes.
In order for our country to grow, we need to be brave enough to open our mouths and speak our truths, kindly and respectfully mind you, to those who may find our words offensive.
But in a “cancel culture” where one misinterpreted word or one phrase taken out of context can effectively render a person invisible, only the most courageous individuals openly speak their truths.
This is particularly true being a writer, a profession where an individual’s words are shot like fireworks into the universe and the dangers of incorrect verbiage or unpopular opinions are tripled.
For instance, I wrote an article on the repercussions of man-bashing as it concerns the feminist movement. And let’s just say that it didn’t go over well.
My writing cited an example from an article in The Baltimore Sun where author Fred Medinger had taken greeting cards with statements that “not all men are annoying. Some are dead,” and “women must be twice as good as men to be thought half as good. Fortunately, this is not difficult” and changed the wording to apply to women.
One of the phrases now read, “Men must be twice as good as women to be thought half as good. Fortunately, this is not difficult.”
In short, Medinger discusses how the statements made ridiculing men were socially acceptable, but the same statements written about women would be inflammatory.
Are Medinger’s statements true? Yes, they are (at least in my humble opinion).
My final message to women in the article was as follows: “We as women have to represent the conduct that we want to see in others, not negate the legitimacy of our concerns by succumbing to the same abhorrent behavior of those in society who believe name-calling and women bashing is both humorous and acceptable.”
For this message, I was vilified and punished with a plethora of venomous reader responses.
And I cannot help but believe that if, in any other circumstance or situation, I had quoted the Bible’s “Golden Rule” of “do to others as you would have them do to you,” my words would be found infinitely more acceptable, even though my message and the Biblical statement make the same point.
But today on social media and in many other political and social organizations, there is often no need or desire for truth or reasoning. As a matter of fact, people who speak unpopular thoughts are often blackballed or “canceled” for their individual perceptions.
The same is true of the recent racial tensions that are so prominent in our country at the moment.
When the racial upheaval this summer was at its highest, I as a white woman was extremely afraid then (and even now as I am writing this) to say two opinions which I feel deeply about.
The first opinion? I am not a racist. The second one? Many cops are good people.
I can’t tell you how many articles I actually composed that stated my opinions and reasoning and ended up in the trash.
Because I knew no one wanted to hear my story. My truth. And I was scared to tell it because I feared I would be unfairly judged, labeled, and even mistreated if I stood up for my beliefs.
And is this pressure to conform not a type of oppression in and of itself?
Looking back, I realized the real truth was I was oppressing myself by choosing cowardice in the face of political correctness. After all, I live in a country that affords me the right to freedom of speech.
And while this country also gives its citizens the right to behave in the manner in which they see fit, the threat of going against whatever is considered socially acceptable by the masses is ever-present, often creating individual subservience to popular belief rather than choosing to vocalize individual thoughts or engage in authentic behaviors.
For example in today’s world, I am subject to censure if I buy my daughter Barbies. If I do so, I am berated by a society that says purchasing these dolls will make her a prisoner to society’s rigid standards of beauty.
No one wants to hear that I teach her that she can do anything she puts her mind to, that her thoughts should always carry more weight than the majority, and that she is beautiful just as she is.
If I teach Emerson or Thoreau to my students, I am wrong for not better spending the time teaching cultural diversity.
No one wants to hear that besides Emerson and Thoreau, I teach all cultures. I teach the works of Maya Angelou, Paul Laurence Dunbar, and the late rapper and poet Tupac Shakur. I teach the words of Pakistani author and human rights activist Malala Yousafzai. I teach the writings of Persian author Rumi and the novels of native Afghani Khaled Hosseini.
And this inability to hear each other is a great fault in our world. Because listening to each other is the only true way to grow as individuals and as a society.
Don’t misunderstand me. Listening does not mean that you accept what I say or that I accept your words. It just means hearing each other and studying each other’s personal philosophies to see if there are kernels of truth that may add to our understanding of the world or our own moral growth.
Aristotle says, “It is the mark of an educated mind to be able to entertain a thought without accepting it.” So I say, let’s entertain more thoughts. Let’s hear more opinions. Let’s find our own truths by allowing others to speak theirs.
The bottom line
As far as political correctness goes, I believe as American historian Howard Zinn does when states he that “civil disobedience is not our problem. Our problem is civil obedience.”
And I think it’s time for me and you and all of us to eradicate this problem. All it takes is unguarded voices and our willingness to hear the unguarded voices of others.
Just remember, kindness and respectfulness in our conversations with each other are a must. Doing so must not be considered an act of political correctness. It must be understood as a show of common decency and personal integrity.
So, let’s be brave enough to start those conversations. Today.