Congressman Mike Bost of Illinois has apologized for his so-called “racist” remark, “…the cleansing that the Orientals used to do where you’d put one person out in front and 900 people yell at them?”
No doubt this kind of thing did happen, probably in China under Mao’s leadership, but what fascinates me is that offense was taken by his use of the word, “Orientals”. Had he used the politically correct word, “Asians”, I don’t think it would have been seen as so offensive. It is clear to me that the comparison he was making was not racial, but between mob mentality and freedom of speech.
While it would have been preferable for him to give his comparison some historical setting and explain the who, where and when of this type of “cleansing,” remember that he was the person being yelled at. And it is a rare person who can remain composed under such circumstances.
Political correctness walls in free speech. Choosing the word “Oriental” over “Asian” is seen as such an offense, that in effect, it becomes a wall that separates people and prevents real communication. Apparently in our brave new world freedom of speech is out and political correctness is in.
In Robert Frost’s poem, Mending Wall, the neighbour says,
“Good fences make good neighbours”
while the narrator states,
“Before I built a wall I’d ask to know
What I was walling in or walling out,
And to whom I was like to give offence.”
The poem uses the object of a stone wall as a metaphor, looking at it from both sides (“walling in or walling out”). Implicit to this poem is the fact that the function of a wall – both benefit and deficit – is being openly discussed from those two views. Therefore, walls are designed to separate specific things, but not all things – in this case, the discussion of it.
One of today’s hottest political issues is the building of a wall along our southern border for the purpose of reducing the illegal aliens and illicit drugs that cross into our country from Mexico. But there is another wall, more significant and more pervasive – a metaphorical wall – that has already been built. The name of that wall is Political Correctness. It not only separates people of different opinions, but it prevents any real communication across its lines of separation.
Examples of this are abundantly evident. Colleges and universities routinely cancel speakers whose conservative views are considered “controversial” and unwelcome. Whereas in the 60s students clamored for “free speech” areas where the free market of ideas could flourish, now they want “safe” spaces where they won’t be upset by philosophies or points of view they don’t agree with.
What is left of journalism is probably the most dramatic example of political correctness as a wall that prevents real communication and real debate. More often than reporting information, the media engages in propaganda by framing what they say in such a way as to push their agenda, and paint anyone who does not agree with their agenda as intellectually or morally deficient. They distort facts, misrepresent their opponents and make up outright lies. The term “fake news” actually underplays the seriousness of the media’s attack on objective reporting.
But political correctness is far more pervasive than how the news is presented. The actual substance of what we say in public has been made subordinate to how we say it. The bricks that make up the wall of political correctness are word choices. Say the wrong word and you are automatically labeled some kind of a bigot – the worst heresy a godless society can name.
Take for example the issue of racism. Back in the 60s we thought racism was on the way out. We saw the dawning of the new “Age of Aquarius” with “Black and white together singing alleluia”. But government and media tried to codify that genuine feeling of the grassroots through PC education. It was decided that “offensive” language would not be permitted. And so they instituted a list of taboo words deemed too offensive for public use.
The problem with this approach is that any time someone is offended, there are two views: who is being walled in, and who is being walled out. Yet putting a wall of separation between them does not solve the offense. The solution can only be found in being connected, not by being separated. Forgiveness and understanding are what is needed to solve the problem – neither of which can happen when a wall is blocking the way.
There are two parts of any offense: the offended and the offender. What if there was no offense intended – nothing in the heart or mind of the offender that meant to offend the other person – just the use of a black-listed word? The wall of political correctness says that the words ARE the offense, so we must not use certain words, even when we aren’t trying to offend.
The problem with this narrow view is that word usage evolves. What is considered unacceptable by one generation is perfectly OK to the next. And multiculturalism exacerbates this in that what is acceptable in one culture may be offensive to another.
When I was in school (the 50s and 60s) the word “oriental” was more commonly used than the word “Asian”, but to most people’s thinking they meant pretty much the same thing. This was in contrast to my being occidental (from the West) as opposed to being oriental (from the East). For someone to take offense at that requires they have a very thin skin, regardless of the color.
I was taught that the three main racial divisions in humans were Caucasian, Asian and negroid. In an effort to consciously offend me, I have been referred to as “Caucasoid” and “of the Caucasian persuasion” but I have chosen not to take offense. People get silly and very weird about how to identify the different races. We lump an incredible range of variations into labels like black, white, brown, yellow and red. Why?
I’ve never felt comfortable knowing just the right word to describe my darker-skinned friends. Negro, black, colored, African-American. Whatever you do, don’t slip and say Afro-American. I guess that came from Franco-American, which we now would call French-American, which I never hear anyone saying – they’re just whites now. These terms change from generation to generation and from culture to culture. How can we talk about our differences without being offensive?
It is long overdue for our politically correct society to consider the other part of an offense: the person who feels offended. Perhaps it is time they learn to forgive those who offend them. That’s the Biblical point of view (Proverbs 19:11). And beyond that, perhaps they need to stop taking offense altogether. The Bait Of Satan by John Bevere shows how destructive taking offense can be.
In the most basic sense, self-righteously taking offense at what others say or do in effect is pointing our fingers at others and blaming them, rather than taking any of the responsibility ourselves. The big picture is that it takes two to tango. Taking offense does nothing to help the dance. It only separates the partners. An excellent resource is Resolving Everyday Conflict, Biblical answers for a common problem, by Peacemaker Ministries.
How can we stop hating? One thing we can all do right now is to stop pointing our fingers at the other guy and shouting, “You hater!”
And for those of you who persist in supporting political correctness, I urge you, “Take down that wall!”