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You Have the Right Duty to Remain Silent

You Have the Right Duty to Remain Silent

Thought PoliceThere once was a time in this country when “political correctness” was something that only people on the Right complained about: “Why do the Redskins have to change their team’s name?”; “Wait, ‘colored’ is all of a sudden off limits?”; “So now we can’t say ‘midget’ anymore?”

No, you can’t. And you’d better not opt for “People McNuggets” either. . . .

(That, by the way, is a case in point: I seriously debated whether or not to include that line above because it is potentially offensive to little people (I think that’s what we’re supposed to call them now). But the thing is, it’s also funny. Come on, admit it. It got a snicker out of you at least, perhaps even a chortle.)

But the PC issue is no longer ruffling the feathers of conservatives only, but people on the left are now doing some eye-rolling of their own. Political talk show host Bill Maher is a perfect example: he is about as Left-wing as they come, and yet he is constantly lectured and tsk-tsked by his fellow liberals for his insistence that Islam is not a religion of peace, and that maybe kids shouldn’t be constantly told by parents and teachers that they’re special and that everything they do is wonderful and praiseworthy. 

It has gotten so bad that comedian Jerry Seinfeld — hardly edgy or offensive — refuses to play college campuses anymore. In his mind the constant need to tip-toe around controversial topics for fear of hurting people’s feelings isn’t worth the hassle. Other comedians, like Sarah Silverman and Louis CK, don’t give a toss about political correctness at all (the latter uses terms like f*gg*t and n*gg*r with seeming impunity). 

Here’s the thing. While we owe it to our fellow humans to define them by the labels they themselves prefer, there has to be some leeway here. Factors like intent and track-record should play a role. When you actually listen to Louis CK’s stand-up comedy, it is clear that he is a friend to the gay and black communities and would in no way put them down or malign them. When someone is on the record as an open-minded and compassionate advocate for the disenfranchised, he or she shouldn’t be judged by the same standards as Rush Limbaugh or Glenn Beck (whose track records show the exact opposite). Indeed, the inability to see the difference is to embrace precisely the nuance-free world that many fundamentalists on the Right inhabit.

Pot, meet kettle.

Furthermore, comedy should also be a mitigating factor. As people with senses of humor know, all good comics push the boundaries in what they do in order to subvert existing norms and make us think about things that are often left unquestioned and unexamined. If they weren’t allowed to be politically incorrect and occasionally offensive, they would be doing us a major disservice. Also, they’d be boring (which may be even worse than unfunny). 

So when it comes to my own little contribution to subversive open-mindedness, my co-host and I will continue to talk the way we talk, even if that involves being occasionally indelicate or off-color. And if people can’t get past the style to the substance, then maybe they should stay out of the deep end and stick to safer, shallower waters.

So if I think hip hop- or Islamic culture is misogynistic, I’m going to say it. If I think a specific point can be made more powerfully (or funnily) by invoking an edgy phrase, I’m going to invoke it. If I think it’s OK to warn a woman against walking down the street in an unsafe neighborhood after dark (despite being labeled a victim-blamer if something bad happens), I’m going to do so. And when my own political or religious community is on the receiving end of biting sarcasm or stern rebuke, well, I’ma put on my big-boy pants and face whatever music I need to face. 

Because that’s how we avoid stagnancy and actually grow. 

 

7 Comments

  1. So does that mean you’re good with “Romanist”? Because as I recall, it put your panties in a bunch before. But I don’t use the term because I find it sneery.

    And speaking of Seinfeld, most terms that are called racist/sexist/otherwise bigoted are actually more impolite than racist, etc. In other words, it’s more a problem of civility than morality (“25%? No way, more like 2-4%.”). I see this misunderstanding on display when among my evangie rightists who will sit around at Thanksgiving using all sorts of slurs (mostly racist) deliberately because they think they’re valiantly pushing back on PC. What they don’t seem to grasp is that they come off as just a bunch of a-holes, not thoughtful critics of PC language policing. If that were true, I should be able to drop all sorts of F-bombs and third commandment violations with them to keep the har-haring going. Damn, I would love to do that some time to show them how stupid they can be. Alas, I’m not an a-hole.

  2. I think it all depends on intent, as I said in the post. If someone is using a pejorative label for the purpose of spite or a-holery, then that’s not cool. My point at the end had more to do with people criticizing the CC for covering up priest abuse or hoarding millions of dollars. When those things come up, I need to be able to take my licks (ahem) like anyone else.

  3. That just seems like honest criticism, which can certainly smart, but doesn’t necessarily make it political incorrectness. I guess I’m not sure what rightly holding a church’s feet to the fire would have to do with the larger point of PC. Still, it’s a good point even for a drunk devil worshiping hipster.

  4. My point was that if I am going to insist that people man up and not snivel when made fun of or criticized, then I can’t snivel when my religious or cultural or political community is treated indelicately. If you dish it out you gotta take it. When God closes a door, make lemonade or whatever.

  5. Got it. I do enjoy a good joke about us white suburbanittes, etc. The tragedy in all the over-sensitivity is the loss of humility and the power of humor to foster it. I mean, if you can’t laugh at yourself (and your own) can you really be trusted? I’m being, ahem, serious.

  6. I am unable to find your contact info, would you mind sending me an email? I have a request to make and hope you will oblige.

  7. You can reach me at jason(at)drunkexpastors(dot)com.