“Politically Correct” Isn’t a Bad Thing

Remember when you were a kid and you did something wrong and your mom found out and she said she “wasn’t mad, just disappointed”?

Remember how much that sucked? Remember how that was so much worse than her just being mad?

That’s how I feel about most things in politics – not mad, necessarily, just disappointed and also very confused by the beliefs of many of my fellow voters.

In some respects, I just genuinely don’t understand where some people are coming from – like with “political correctness” for example. For the life of me, I don’t understand why so many people (and at least one entire cable television network) are so against it.

I officially don’t get it, people.

I don’t understand why people complain about it. I don’t understand why people blame it on the “infantilization” of our society. I don’t understand why people are allowed to say offensive things then blame the inevitable fallout from their comments on our nation’s obsession with “political correctness”.

If you say something offensive and then people get offended, it is not because of our society’s supposed obsession with political correctness. It is not because you have made a bold, brave choice to not be politically correct. People got offended or upset because you said something offensive or upsetting and they reacted to that. You know, the way people react when you insult them.

This is not a new phenomenon. This is not something that started happening only after we started using the term “politically correct.” This isn’t new.

If you say something that is insulting to large segments of the population, large segments of the population are bound to get upset and tell you about it.

People have a right to get offended. That’s just how conversations and frankly, societies work. It’s also how freedom of speech works.

You get to have an opinion and, just as importantly, people get to disagree with your opinion and they get to tell you about it – as vocally as they choose. We have freedom of speech but we do not have freedom from the consequences of that speech.

I’m sick and tired of this particular scenario that I’ll break down into steps because I’ve seen it so many times lately, I can easily break it down into its parts. Which is kind of depressing in and of itself:

  1. Action: a politician or media personality says something incredibly insulting about a segment of the population
  2. Consequence: that large segment of the population and those who support them are insulted and show their frustration with the politician or media personality through social media, protests or by pulling their support from the politician’s campaign or media personality’s business endeavors
  3. Politician or media personality complains that people were only upset by their incredibly insulting comments because society is becoming “too P.C.”
  4. I want to scream

Because here’s the thing, in most cases people are not “just being too P.C.” In most cases people are just being “understandably upset by something that was genuinely upsetting.”

You don’t get to point at any opinion or idea you don’t like and just call it politically correct to discredit or degrade it. That’s just not how words work.

To quote Inigo Montoya from The Princess Bride: “You keep using that word. I do not think it means what you think it means.” 

To get all Merriam-Webster with it, here’s the simple definition of politically correct: “agreeing with the idea that people should be careful to not use language or behave in a way that could offend a particular group of people.”

Okay, there, now maybe it is just me, but using Merriam-Webster’s simple definition, being politically correct doesn’t really seem like a bad thing.

In this context, politically correct sounds an awful lot like “Hey, please just try your best to be considerate of other people’s feelings. Thanks.”

That’s an idea I’m completely, 100 percent behind.

How did something that sounds so incredibly innocuous and common sense become seen as such a bad thing? How did it become so hated?

Why are we celebrating politicians and pundits who proudly proclaim that they are not “P.C.”?

Why is that a good thing? Why is that something to be proud of?

Honestly, it’s not even that impressive. It’s the easiest thing in the world to not be politically correct. Just think of something offensive to say and then say it. Don’t stop and think if there a more thoughtful and productive way to say it. Don’t stop and think if there is a kinder and more inclusive way to say it. Just say it, no filter, as is, without any thought to anyone but yourself.

It isn’t that hard.

We can all not be politically correct. All we need to do is forget the manners our parents taught us; forget what we’ve learned about healthy, productive, respectful communication and also, equally as important, forget everything we know about empathy.

That’s the easiest way to not be politically correct.

But why would we even want to not be politically correct? Why would we want to promote something that celebrates rudeness over common sense manners? Divisiveness over thoughtful, inclusive dialogue? Deliberate callousness over empathy?

That doesn’t make sense to me.

And I’m not falling for the argument that an increase in political correctness erodes at our freedom of speech. It doesn’t. You can still say what you want to say. Political correctness just encourages you to try to say it in a better way. A more thoughtful way. It doesn’t stop you from speaking your mind. It just means you may get a little more fallout if you speak your mind in an offensive way.

Yes, it may encourage you to think a bit more before blurting out your opinion, but is that really such a bad thing? Do you really think our country couldn’t deal with people putting a little more thought into their words?

Yes, it’s harder to express yourself while taking into consideration the thoughts and feelings of others. But it’s worth it.

Making an effort to speak your mind and share your viewpoints in a way that is respectful and inclusive should not be seen as a negative.

It should be seen as what it is – diplomatic.

Just for the record, because I seem to be all about dictionary definitions today – here’s how M.W. defines diplomatic: “not causing bad feelings : having or showing an ability to deal with people politely.”

It doesn’t seem like it’s asking too much of ourselves and of our future president to try to deal with people politely.

And if we don’t end up with a president who does that, I, for one, am going to be mad, no, wait – disappointed.