Saturday, November 19, 2016
A Short Thought on Political Correctness
I’ve been thinking about the ugliness of the recent presidential campaign and one of the underlying themes of the Trump crusade: the attack on what he and his followers referred to as political correctness. This has been a rallying cry for a certain faction in the Republican Party for some time now, but with the rise of Trump, this faction has become increasingly vocal. The complaint, as I understand it, is that it has become socially inappropriate to say certain things. This was attacked as a restriction on free speech. But what we have seen, as “political correctness” has been summarily dispatched, is simply that some people, including Donald Trump, have felt free to say demeaning and offensive things about certain groups of people.
The result is that what was formerly known as “hate speech” is now simply “free speech.” And as a society, we have taken several steps backward, in terms of what we understand to be common decency. It is now acceptable among a much larger portion of the population to speak openly and cruelly about certain ethnic groups, races, religions, and sexual orientations. We used to call this bigotry, but by labeling common decency “political correctness,” the bigots have opened the flood gates to a level of ugliness that we ought to have put behind us long ago. As a society, we have regressed in some unfortunate ways, and it is largely due to the man who has just been elected president. What Trump is discovering is that it’s awfully hard to put the genie back in the bottle.