By ROB FLAKS
Our nation is divided, and rhetoric is playing a large part in causing this division. When we cannot ascertain a baseline of facts or civil discussion, it reduces us to shouting past each other and demonizing the other side. Out of this climate emerged the culture of “Political Correctness”, although it seems to be as divisive as the issues it attempts to clean up.
Proponents of political correctness say that it seeks to correct social wrongs and make sure that everyone feels comfortable. Those who are in favor of safe spaces want institutions to lead by example and to reform their words and actions to make an environment safe for users. They believe that if something is deemed offensive, then those who caused the offense must take it upon themselves to make an adjustment.
“I absolutely believe that a student has a right to not be offended when they come to school,” said Jericho High School Principal Joan Rosenberg. She went on to say that if a student was offended by certain material that was being taught, they would have the option to complete an alternate assignment but would not be excused from the work. She believes, just like most people in favor of political correctness do, that when someone is offended, the burden of change is on those who caused the offense.
Those against political correctness, however, believe that it gets us embroiled in
semantics and limits free expression. To surround yourself with dissenting opinions and to avoid existing in an echo-chamber where ideas are always repeated and never challenged is seen as the only way for a society to function. They believe that learning is inherently uncomfortable and
that facts that disagree with one’s chosen narrative or political allegiance shouldn’t be
ignored in the name of comfort. They believe that the burden of change falls on the person who took offense. They believe that the people who cannot handle dissenting opinions or alternate views should keep that to themselves instead of forcing it upon others. Bill Maher, a staunch opponent of political correctness who even hosted a show called “Politically Incorrect” rallies against safe spaces on campuses, saying that if colleges can’t be places of free expression, “What can be?”
The unfortunate thing about political correctness is that what started out as a progressive idea about ridding the world of injustices and racist slang has now been taken to such extremes that it now justifies the very actions it sought to eliminate. Donald Trump talks about how political correctness is ruining the country, and in doing so, he gives validity to a veritable cornucopia of racists, neo-Nazis and misogynists. However getting offended by “the basket of deplorables” doesn’t make them bow out in shame; they have no shame and should be exposed as such. Political correctness has become so inflated and ridiculous, with people getting offended about Halloween costumes or skin tones of fictional characters, that it now makes the opposition look good in comparison.
On that note here is a message for fellow liberals: Have the discussion! Don’t be afraid of those with different opinions. Instead, hear them out; they have the same rights of free speech that you do. By censoring them, you only give them more of a self-righteous justification for what they say, even if you find what the opposition says morally detestable. Realize that you don’t have to hate those who disagree with you. Have the discussion and you’ll see that we all have a middle ground of common values. However if you continue to name call, to isolate yourself in insular arguments with only those who agree with you and “lob smack from the cheap seats”, then know that you’ve abdicated yourself of the right to complain about gridlock in Washington or the sharp decline in civility in our national discourse.
This is a time for American heroes, and the ball is in our court. We have that ability to define what America will be. Our words have weight, but let’s not miss the forest for the trees. Let’s make the debate about the direction, not the diction; about substance not semantics. Sticking our heads in the sand and ignoring the problems will not bring us the solutions we need. This is a time for American heroes, and we cannot let it slip away.
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