Thursday, April 19, 2007

 

Political Correctness or Civility?

Jonah Goldberg mistakes political correctness with civility.


I'm all in favor of acid wit and barbed satire. But too many partisans on both sides sound like Beavis and Butt-Head, tittering over trivia. More important, if political correctness is as absurd as so many people think it is, why is it so successful? This newspaper, your local schools, police and fire departments, city hall, your church and workplace all likely subscribe to vast swaths of what was once called a politically correct agenda, from rules barring sexual harassment to the language you can use in casual conversation or e-mails. Surely if P.C. is the Orwellian imposition so many conservatives claim it is, Americans would reject it the way they resisted other alien impositions, such as the metric system, bidets, or David Hasselhoff’s Germanic personality cult.

The reality is that much of political correctness — the successful part — is a necessary attempt to redefine good manners in a sexually and racially integrated society. Good manners are simply those things you do to demonstrate respect to others and contribute to social decorum. Aren’t conservatives the natural defenders of proper manners? [Emphasis added.]

I think Jonah is wrong because he is defining political correctness (PC) as being civil to people of other races, creeds, nationalities, etc. This definition is slanderous in that it presumes that before PC Americans where not civil to people who were different than themselves. This is simple not true. America is a nation whose very existence is owed to people who wanted to live in peace with others. Our history of slavery and eventual overthrowing of its regime is testimony to the struggle and great cost to America in order to make all men equal under the law. Only an anachronistic morality would hold the America of yesteryear to today's standards.

Jonah Goldberg's praise of PC thinking for America's growing civility denigrates those who came before to fight for our freedoms. Those Americans who campaigned for tolerance before the term political correctness was invented. An abiding belief in the rights of man is the reason that America is the accepting place it is today. The group identity politics of the PC movement is anathema to individual responsibilty and to free and open debate about critical issues relating to race and gender. PC thinking hinders honesty, it is a pox on our civic life, and deserves a place in the ash heap of history.

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