Framing the Dialogue

We Need A New P.C.

I recently read a quote from George H.W. Bush’s commencement at the University of Michigan in which he addressed the political correctness issue.  President Bush said:

“Ironically, on the 200th anniversary of our Bill of Rights, we find free speech under assault throughout the United States, including on some college campuses. The notion of political correctness has ignited controversy across the land. And although the movement arises from the laudable desire to sweep away the debris of racism and sexism and hatred, it replaces old prejudice with new ones. It declares certain topics off-limits, certain expression off-limits, even certain gestures off-limits.”

This commencement was over 17 years ago on May 4, 1991.  How many of you have had a similar thought or started to say something and had to stop and think of how it would be received.  Does PC affect your life?  I think it has gone way too far.  Many are using PC Police to stifle dialogue or quell opposition (I know that you are thinking that “this guy must be using a thesaurus). 

I had my own brush with PC police when I was called to testify in an age/ethnic harassment suit for a former employer.  It was around 1993 when one of my colleagues charged that the managers at my former company harassed her because of her age and ethnicity.  She was older and had emigrated from Poland.  I had left the company several years before and was surprised when she called me.  She asked me to testify on her behalf. 

She proceeded to tell me what she wanted me to say.  The only problem was that it wasn’t true.  I told her so and we cordially ended the conversation.  A few months later when I went to testify, I found out that she subsequently accused me of harassment too.  My crime was that she claimed to have once seen a polish cartoon on my desk.  That was how I harassed her.  She even had a copy of the cartoon.  I had never seen it though I could not prove it.  It’s really hard (actually impossible) to prove the negative. 

This turned out to be one of the most frustrating experiences of my life.  I sat and listened to all of the stuff that happened between her and the managers since I had left.  When I testified, I suggested that maybe she accused me only after I refused to say what she wanted.  Could this have been a little retribution?  The hearing examiner took an immediate dislike to me.  You see, I have trouble sitting quietly while someone lies about me.

I don’t want you to think that the case was all about me.  The accuser didn’t work for me and her accusation toward me was a small part of the case.  There were 5-6 others testifying.  I was dragged into this because of a CARTOON someone put on my desk…allegedly.  That’s extreme Political Correctness.

After the hearing we asked our council (he wasn’t allowed in the hearing) what the next step would be.  It seems that the best we could hope for was nothing.  THE BEST THAT WE COULD HOPE FOR WAS TO HEAR NOTHING.  How long do we wait for nothing…he didn’t know.  The good news is that it has been 15 years and I haven’t heard anything.  I guess I am safe.

Political Correctness has gone to an extreme.  People should be conscious of other people’s feelings, but litigation is extreme.  Maybe I want the good old days.  If you insulted someone’s ethnic background and they were offended, they would insult you right back.  After a few insults and usually laughs, things would be settled and you’d be friends again.  Either that or you would get a punch in the nose.

This is different than Political Stupidity.  Ask Senator Arlen Specter from Pennsylvania.  He was recently lambasted for telling polish jokes at a speaking engagement.  I am waiting to hear that my former colleague is going after him.  After all, he is on tape.

“This is, in theory, still a free country, but our politically correct, censorious times are such that many of us tremble to give vent to perfectly acceptable views for fear of condemnation. Freedom of speech is thereby imperiled, big questions go undebated, and great lies become accepted, unequivocally as great truths.” — Simon Heffer Source: Daily Mail, 7 June 2000

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