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Thursday, July 24, 2014

The Folly of Political Correctness

I generally try to avoid controversy but I see an insidious trend moving into society where tolerance has become synonymous with acceptance and a cult of victimization has become an excuse to suppress another individual’s right to express a different or opposing opinion. Political correctness, which has always existed, should not become the norm in an ethnically diverse, republican democracy. The First Amendment protects a person’s right to express himself even if it is offensive and in many cases stupid. (The use of “himself” in no way is intended as a disparaging remark against women. If you do not like it, mentally replace it with “herself/himself” but put the “herself” first because “e” comes before “i” in the alphabet.)

PC squelches freedom of speech, honest debate, and genuine discussion. It makes it impossible to tell jokes, because most jokes are the expense of someone else. It deprives a person of their individuality and makes writing history nearly impossible. No two people are the same. We are all individuals right down to our fingerprints. Not everyone is polite, conscientious, honest, faithful, and loyal. The world is filled with individuals whom and groups whom we do not like or care to associate with. History is filled with “The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly.”

Let me give you some examples of PC in action.

Confederate General John Brown Gordon was a tough, fearless officer who helped form the Ku Klux Klan in 1866. Should we remove his photograph from national battlefields because he was a racist? Historically, he proved to be a very good officer despite being an avowed segregationist. While I do not agree at all with his role in the Klan, should I stop studying him as a general?

George Washington and Thomas Jefferson owned slaves. While I find that personally reprehensible, should we remove their faces from our currency? Personally abhorrent behavior does not negate their contributions to U.S. history. The current trend to remove “offensive” names from school mascots and sports teams has gone to ridiculous lengths. Some Native Americans (Indians) have bought into the myth of the noble savage and of their brutal suppression by white Europeans. That was in the past. It happened and we cannot change it but we can faithfully record it and rejoice in the fact that we are no longer killing one another. Life on the frontier was brutal. Inter-tribal warfare helped destroy the Indian way of life as much as any foreign incursions into the New World.

Should the U.S. government have suppressed the tribes by outlawing their religion and by confining them to reservations? No. But they did and we cannot change that.

I had relatives who rode with Nathan Bedford Forrest in the 16thTennessee Mounted Infantry. Does that make them racist? Honestly I do not know if they were racist or not. I do not know why they joined the Confederate army considering that East Tennessee was so strongly pro-Union. Am I responsible for their actions? No. I am not responsible for the errors and misbehavior of my forebears. I am responsible for my own behavior.

PC deprives a person of the right to exercise common sense. There is a time and a place for everything. I am not a neo-Confederate. I do not celebrate my Confederate heritage because I choose not to do so. I do not celebrate my Union heritage either. I do write about the horrendous, life altering horror in which the soldiers immersed themselves. I do not dislike people who do otherwise. They have that right under law and to deprive them of that right is illegal.

Practitioners of PC read negative motivation into everything which offends them. Anyone wearing a Confederate logo has to be an ignorant, southern racist. People who drawl are lazy, ignorant, and stupid and need to get educated. Tomahawks and war bonnets are offensive. The one was a tool as well as a weapon. The war bonnet was sacred and represented a warrior’s prowess. It was an honor to wear one. Jokes are offensive because they are told at the expense of someone else unless the person telling it is politically correct and making fun of someone who is not. I love redneck jokes, because I know some of the people who they are joking about.

Common sense should replace PC. If you do not like what a person is saying or doing, sit down and discuss it with them or just walk away. Mark Twain once said about an ignorant person, that he should keep his stupidity to himself rather than open his mouth and remove all doubt. On the other side, out of common courtesy do not deliberately offend someone by what you believe or do. Treat everyone decently as you would want to be treated but if asked tell the truth as you understand it knowing that it is your personal responsibility, if at all possible, to remain civil.

I would far rather know where an individual stands on an issue than to suppress it. I prefer honesty over hearing only what I want to hear. I may not agree with a person’s actions or beliefs but my suppressing them will only reinforce their importance to that individual. I prefer history based upon the evidence over stories based upon tradition or propaganda. What was it Davy Crockett allegedly said? “Be sure you’re right then go ahead.” 

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