Friday, February 19, 2016

What about Political Correctness?

In his first inaugural address in March 1933, President Franklin D. Roosevelt insisted that “the only thing we have to fear is fear itself.” Nevertheless, responding to the widespread fear expressed by people across the nation, on February 19, 1942, FDR took harsh measures toward people of Japanese descent who lived in the U.S.
As a result of his Executive Order 9066, approximately 120,000 men, women, and children of Japanese ancestry, almost all of whom were law-abiding citizens, were evicted from their homes on the West Coast of the U.S. and forced to live in internment camps across the country.
That was grossly unfair to the vast majority of a whole group of people who were peaceable residents in our nation.
During World War I, German-Americans were sometimes accused of being sympathetic to Germany. The U.S. Justice Department attempted to prepare a list of all German aliens, counting approximately 480,000 of them—and more than 4,000 of them were imprisoned in 1917-18.
I don’t know if my great-great-grandfather Hellmann made the Justice Department’s list or not, but he was born in Germany in 1844 and was living in St. Joseph, Mo., during WWI.
Even though his birth name was probably Johann Friedrich, in this country he went by John Frederick. The census records have my grandmother Laura Cousins’ grandfather’s name as just Fred Hellmann, so he probably didn’t suffer much anti-German discrimination.
But many German-Americans did suffer unjustly because of their name and/or their ethnicity.
The term “political correctness” has been used for many years now, often in a derogatory sense. There are, certainly, some excesses related to what is said, or not said, because of what is said to be political correctness.
On the other hand, when used positively political correctness describes the attempt not to use discriminatory or demeaning language about other people, especially about those who are “different” from the one speaking.
Thus, those who want to be fair emphasize politically correctness for the sake of women, who are often denigrated by men; for the sake of people of color, who are often discriminated against by whites; for the sake of gays/lesbians, who are often demeaned by straights; and for the sake of Jews and Muslims and others adherents of other minority religions in this country, who are often looked down on by many, including some Christians.
Tom Toles is the eminent editorial cartoonist for the Washington Post. Even though I do not have his permission to do so, perhaps since I make absolutely no money from this blog he will not object to my using this perceptive cartoon of his:
As I wrote recently, the President has often been criticized for not using the term “Islamic extremists.” His critics say that this is a grave mistake rooted in the idea of political correctness. During the Dec. 15 presidential debate Ted Cruz declared, “Political correctness is killing people.” Earlier last year, Donald Trump emoted, “I’m so tired of this politically correct crap.”
And about a year ago Ben Carson declared, “There is no such thing as a politically correct war.”
But even in times of war, or especially then, people who are not combatants and especially those who are American citizens, need to be protected from hatred and prejudice.


  1. Political correctness is a matter of political courtesy and inclusiveness. I think the comic gets at much of the root of the anger, especially with people like Trump. There are, too, a great many good souls who were not trying to insult anybody, who got caught, corrected, and sometimes criticized for using traditional language that was not understood to be exclusive or offensive till we raised our consciousness about such things. I had many such people in the churches I pastured; good-hearted people who, once they understood the good intentions of political correctness were fine with it, and would even work at it. Unfortunately demagogues like Trump massage the worst in us.

    1. I guess autocorrect decided I "pastured" churches! What are we going to do about auto-correctness?! ­čśä

    2. Yes, automatic correctness may well be more of a problem than political correctness!

      But if you go with the image of a pastor being a shepherd, there were surely times when you did need to pasture your flock.

    3. What a wonderful, unintended and unexpected opportunity for insight provided by an 'incorrect' auto-correction! :-) If 'auto' meant 'self' then Anton's recognition of the mistake of 'pastured' for the intended 'pastored' is a commendable 'auto-correction', but, alas, 'auto' here means automatically-corrected-by-something/someone-else. As Anton suggests "political courtesy and inclusiveness" is my responsibility/responsiveness to the other.

  2. Thinking Friend Charles Kiker in Texas shares this comment:

    "I wrote a short post (or maybe a comment) on FB a few weeks ago, basically saying with sentences what Toles said in his cartoon. I got lambasted by a lot of FB friends and relatives.

    "Toles and you and I are right on this, whatever FBers may think about it. So many are so sure that white people are under-privileged. They get all shook up because it’s not nice (BTW it’s not illegal) to say n----r anymore."

    1. It will be interesting to see if this article elicits any negative comments. I will post it on Facebook at some point, and it might get more comments there--although I don't get much feedback on the blog articles I link to on FB.

  3. Everyone has their favorite way to be offended. :)

  4. Discrimination is a part of life and who has not been a victim of discrimination one way or another? Christians are supposed to be discriminated for the truth of the gospel and that is what we ought to concentrate on. Your political rantings are a complete waste of time! All I hear is language that is meant to offend certain groups while other groups go unscathed? But now I realized your a sanctimonious sarcastic liberal. Quite ignorant of what really goes on in life I might add!

  5. Replies
    1. Thanks, Clif, for linking to this article. But I am not sure I understand the point about political correctness. The article says,

      "Evangelicals tried for years to fight for the culture—to win the argument for their traditional views regarding marriage, family, and the value of human life. Now they want to fight on different ground: political correctness. And since Trump is the king of that—an ally who isn’t Jesus-y but says he’s with the Jesus people—he can tear off a third of that evangelical electorate without moderating any of his secularism."

      Does that mean evangelicals favor Trump so they can be as politically incorrect as he is?

    2. I can think of some flippant answers, but the fact is that I don't understand their motivations any better than you. My hunch is that they identify with Trump because he says things using language they are thinking in their own minds. They like that fact that he is using language that the rest of society has judged to be politically incorrect.

      I was reminded of some history by an interview with a Baptist minister from Texas that I heard of NPR yesterday. He recalled that in the 1980 election that the majority of "evangelicals" did not vote for Carter (devout Christian who taught Sunday school) but instead voted for Reagan (divorced and remarried movie star who was more secular than religious). Not much has changed.

    3. Yes, that puzzled me greatly in 1980, but, remembering that, I think we have to be prepared to say that Trump might well be President this time next year.