Navigating the PC Minefield

Boomers, pretend for a moment that you are back in the free-spirited era of the 1960s and wiry-haired, soloist Tiny Tim is on television strumming his ukulele and singing “Tiptoe Through the Tulips.”  (If you are having a senior moment, revisit Tiny Tim on YouTube.)

Return now to the present, and instead of a floral field of colorful tulips imagine a societal landscape filled with landmines labeled PC. The explosive devices are buried haphazardly, but because you are familiar with some of the hot spots you side-step intuitively and proceed with caution, but then suddenly you hear “click.” And before you can jump back — KABOOM!  You are blasted for violating PC protocol.

The practice of political correctness (PC) was started in the 1980s to minimize offenses based on race and culture, occupation, gender, sexual orientation, religious beliefs, disabilities, and the list grows on.  PC changed words, terms, and procedures in nearly every sector of society. For example, people previously referred to as retarded or crippled are now described as mentally or physically challenged. Gender specific occupations are gender neutral. Mailmen and airline stewardesses are now postal workers and flight attendants.  Housewives are homemakers, and babysitters are child care providers. Religious factions also did an about-face from the previous norm. “Mankind” became “humankind” and the “sons of God” converted to “children of God.”  Not to be outdone, nonbelievers endorse eliminating the word God and barring religious symbols from public venues.  Enough already!

For the record, I do not trivialize the seriousness of discrimination or prejudice, and I believe that everyone deserves to be treated with decency and respect. However, I also believe that many people practice PC grudgingly, because they fear that one misspoken word – one misstep in the minefield – could cause them to be unfairly regarded as racist, sexist, homophobic, or just obsolete. PC requires self-censorship, but inhibiting free speech does not alter a person’s thoughts nor change their heart. Case in point — In 1987, Oprah, produced her show in Forsyth County, Georgia, in a town that at the time had no black residents. The all white audience, apparently without fear of repercussions, candidly spoke their minds about why they did not want blacks living there; and as far as I know no one was burned in effigy. 

What are your thoughts on PC, has it gone too far?  Do you openly voice your opinion about the issues with which you disagree or hold your tongue instead, pretending to go along to get along?  Human beings are all imperfect, be they black, white or brown; Christian, Muslim or Atheist; straight, gay or bisexual. As long as their actions do not intentionally harm others, people should be free to be who they are, think what they think, and say what they want to say without being made to feel like trespassers on Old Macdonald’s PC farm. Here a trap. There a trap. Everywhere a trap, trap.

Life seemed much simpler in those bygone days when Tiny Tim, in his high falsetto voice sang, “Tiptoe through the tulips with meee.

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