Political correctness (adjectivally, politically correct, commonly abbreviated to PC) is a term primarily used as a pejorative to describe language, policies, or measures which are intended not to offend or disadvantage any particular group of people in society; in pejorative usage, those who use the term are generally implying that these policies are excessive.
“When a well-packaged web of lies has been sold gradually to the masses over generations, the truth will seem utterly preposterous and its speaker a raving lunatic.”
So the big complaint of the conservative lobby and the Donald Trump crowd, in particular, seems to be that political correctness is the source of all problems in America. The claim seems to center on the idea that political correctness is infringing on American freedom of speech. But let’s take a close look at that claim.
My Country Right or Wrong?
To sum it up sincerely, what is threatened by political correctness is the political philosophy of “My Country Right or Wrong.” This is the idea that true patriotism forgives all ills because American interests, especially those of an economic nature or issues of sovereignty supersede all worrisome notions that America could be mistaken on any front. That, my friends, is the original version of American political correctness.
For several centuries, the Ugly American version of political correctness has presumed that we are incapable of offense in the world because our version of democracy is so superior. Some Americans love to believe it is impossible for our nation to offend anyone in the world because America is so great it need not apologize for anything it has ever done, or ever will do.
“The propagandist’s purpose is to make one set of people forget that certain other sets of people are human.”
Toe the Line
This is an inverse form of political correctness. It is the demand that everyone “toe the line” and preach America’s supposed exceptionalism that has been far more damaging than any progressive attempt to halt use of offensive terms here at home and abroad.
This radical belief that America has no faults has long been the brand of political correctness advocated by conservatives. It is the politically correct idea that American policies are believed never to offend or disadvantage any particular group of people in society. Enforcement of this politically correct ideology has been bold and harsh. Critics of American policies are shouted down on grounds that they are being unpatriotic. To put it bluntly, that is a political correctness bordering fascism. It directly suppresses freedom of speech and the very aspects of democracy the Founding Fathers of the United States of America sought to encourage.
This conservative version of political correctness is the poisoned version of the American republic that Liberals and Progressives have worked to deconstruct for years. The process is never easy. When a liberal President reaches out with an apology for an American action to other nations, conservatives complain that gesture is a sign of weakness or contrition, when in fact it is the dialogue of diplomacy and collaboration. Nationalistic zealots might not approve, but it is the politically intelligent thing to do when international or domestic signs of contrition are due.
“The best way to protect your own freedom is to watch everybody else’s back. That’s the essence of community.”
— ski racer Bode Miller
In fact, it is a show of strength and confidence to acknowledge flaws from the past, present, and future. Certainly the nation of Germany has had the courage to acknowledge and admit the flaws of their actions under Hitler, including genocide. So should America acknowledge its domestic denigration and genocide of Native Americans, which vilified “Indians” just as Germany targeted Jews, and we killed just as many people. America has also failed to admit that its commercial fortunes were originally built on the backs of slaves. The abuse, torture and murder of black citizens continued for another 100 years after slavery was officially ended. Racism is still rampant and bald-faced in the current political climate. Yet there are people who insist there is no such thing as racism, and that we should not talk about it. This is the most persistent and perverse form of political correctness of all.
“Struggle is a never-ending process. Freedom is never really won. You earn it and win it in every generation.”
— Coretta Scott King
Politically Correct Characters
The My Country Right or Wrong philosophy has produced politically correct characters such as Oliver North, who acted on aggressive, politically-correct instincts without approval of the American people. North thought his personal brand of exceptionalism was superior to the law. It also aligned with the notions of America as a faultless and therefore unquestionable entity.
And let us be clear: zealous so-called “patriots” have been engaging in these “politically correct” operations for decades (even centuries) in the name of the America people. There is evidence that both American and foreign political figures have been hunted down, harassed, spied upon, and even shot and killed by so-called American exceptionalists. All in the name of enforcing a political correctness that American interests are superior even to the very liberal teachings of God and Christ in the Bible.
Indeed, the fascist version of political correctness has long merged an aggressive version of God and country together. These religiously motivated zealots forever merge the American Dream with the notion of Israel as a Holy Land and an equally flawless ally in a perceived war against the world itself.
This is the political correctness that we need to question, the version that attempts to excuse (and not compensate) for the disadvantages imposed on people according to race, origin, orientation or disabilities. That form of political correctness will never admit that America has a screwed up history and needs to account for its bad behavior somehow.
“Political freedom is a society’s safety valve, allowing the passionately critical a nonviolent way to express their dissatisfaction with the status quo.”
— David Cole
But of course, the immature minds that wail about today’s form of political correctness cannot (ever) imagine that it is the very thing they claim to hate in others that they hate most in themselves. This is also a common psychological problem seen in people who publicly persecute homosexuals while engaging in secret gay relationships. Rather than be truthful with themselves, they attempt to compensate with loud, aggressive indictments to hide their (undeserved) self-loathing.
The same holds true for politicians spouting the virtues of family values while having extramarital affairs. Self-denial is a common pattern in the real, more corrupt world of conservative political correctness. It also happens to be the most damaging form of self-denial to the personal and political interests of all involved.
This pattern of thinking also defines racism, in which one claims superiority based only skin color. That’s how white Americans convinced themselves that “redskins” were fodder for Manifest Destiny, or that “blacks” or “niggers” or “slaves” were destined to serve the white race. One can only cringe at the angry self-loathing coming through the slavemaster while in the act of whipping the backs of slaves bloody. All while claiming to inflict the very grace of God through his actions.
“The question is not whether we will be extremists, but what kind of extremists we will be. . . The nation and the world are in dire need of creative extremists.”
— Martin Luther King Jr.
Even the Founders struggled with this self-image. Several held slaves, and some even slept with them while writing a Constitution that only granted black Americans status as 3/5 of a person. And when black soldiers came home from World War II, they found a nation still rife in prejudice and discrimination. Muhammad Ali won the world title in boxing only to be denied service at a coffee counter in his home town of Louisville, Kentucky.
All these examples prove the foolish nature of American exceptionalism as a worldview. And all these wrongs would remain “right” unless the genuine efforts of liberals and Progressives were ultimately, somehow successful. It also requires a willingness to confess that America’s originalistic brand of political correctness has been wrong for too long.
How the political correctness of literalism kills
It’s the same sad story with biblical literalism as well. The idea that only a literal interpretation of a King James Version of the bible is an acceptable source of truth is just one of the popular memes favored by fundamentalist Christians.
Never mind that biblical scholarship has found flaws even in the King James version of the Bible, or that Jesus himself went to great lengths to contradict the political correctness of literalism evidenced in the Pharisees and scribes of his day.
Jesus went to the cross in defiance of that form of political correctness. He stood up to moneyed power and the corruption it created in faith. He sacrificed himself to a truth that stood outside the politically correct vision held by those who secretly admired yet feared him. His own friends and family called him crazy for this stubborn, self-endangering worldview. And Jesus was forced to admit that a prophet is seldom accepted in his own town.
And that’s the truth about political correctness to this day.
“To befoul the unholy alliance between corrupt business and corrupt politics is the first task of the statesmanship of the day.
— President Theodore Roosevelt