Republican voters are rallying behind Donald Trump as if he were Moses delivering free speech on a stone tablet. The candidate has soared to the top of the pack for “telling it like it is”—political correctness, be damned.
But there is nothing wrong with political correctness, within reason. Mothers of older generations used to teach, “If you can’t say something nice, don’t say anything at all.” It’s called “civility.” And it’s essential to people being able to live together peacefully.
Yes, we all have and should have the right to speak our minds. But in today’s America, the bashing of political correctness is simply an attempt to justify bad behavior and a resentment that has turned to vile hate.
Trump’s branding of Mexican immigrants as rapists and druggies, his unabashed disdain of Black Lives Matter protesters, and his gross public derisions of women are all offensive—but not because they cross the lines of political correctness. His statements offend because they are immoral. They reveal a lack of principles and a sense of right and wrong. He violates the most basic standards of decency and respect. And all the while, he smiles and shrugs.
Trump’s not alone in the war against political correctness. Ben Carson has said, “We now live in a society where people are afraid to say what they actually believe.” And both he and Mike Huckabee have compared Obama and America to Hitler’s Nazi Germany.
Carson has tried to differentiate between political correctness and “courteous speech.” In his view, the former inhibits the ability to express oneself. Well, balderdash. Since when have Republicans been unable to express themselves? Our society, on the whole, didn’t reject the use of the N word to oppress free speech. It did so because the word denigrates blacks and represents the racism and immoral behaviors of people who would tyrannize and murder them.
As Dawn M. Turner wrote in the Chicago Tribune: “The political correctness I appreciate tends not to impede free speech. What it does best is impede diarrhea of the mouth.” She goes on to say, “It allows for…purposeful discourse, where people can speak openly and honestly as we confront issues that are critical to the well-being of our democracy.”
Political correctness never caused a war or deprived people of their rights and liberties. It neither threatens nor demeans. It is, instead, the “art” of politics and the means to constructive ends. It is a stepping stone in the journey toward a better, more civil society. And it is something we desperately need.
A lifelong communicator, I'm pretty sure I came out of the womb talking. But with no siblings to chat and play with, I learned to express myself in writing. My subsequent birth as a politics junkie came while I watched my father, a career Marine, sob uncontrollably over Kennedy's assassination. Intuitively, I knew the world would never be the same, and I should pay attention. So I did.
Now, some 50 years later, I find myself dumbfounded by the trajectory of American politics and the prevalence of ignorance, bigotry, hate, and violence. I started Two Cents of Sense, hoping to help change that trajectory and to promote progressives' conversation, knowledge sharing, and actions.