To PC or Not To PC

A recent commenter has me thinking about the nature of Political Correctness(PC). So, I found an article about the topic by Moira Weigel in The Guardian https://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2016/nov/30/political-correctness-how-the-right-invented-phantom-enemy-donald-trump. The history of the term is fascinating. My question is: What does it mean to be accused of political correctness? It seems to me that Donald Trump uses those two words to call people smart!

I don’t mind being called smart, but PC carries with it many connotations. By using this trick of rhetoric – naming an imaginary opponent: The PC – he envisions a triad of straw men. There is the stereotype PC person: upper middle class liberal, academic or urbanite, personified as a snobbish, middle-aged, bald, goateed, guy in glasses wearing a corduroy jacket with leather elbow patches, and reading Proust. There is the good, clean Christian farmer of hearth and home, with ball cap, bib overalls, a Bible, a hound dog, a wife and a blunderbuss. (I was a farmer for eight years, sans wife and blunderbuss. And a non-theist so the Bible stayed on the shelf!) Then there is the savior class of rich folks: Trumpites. Or as Trump promised: “I’m going to hire the best people for my Cabinet”; best does not mean a ‘qualified expert,’ it means wealthy. Money, apparently gives one superior knowledge of any and all things.

Trump has convinced the farming third of the triad he would help them. He complains about Political Correctness, but then – he lies often and blatantly. His behavior suggests that the lie – an immoral, deceitful, attack-on-civility – is preferable to the cautious, respectful, moral, civility of being politically correct . Honestly, he won the election by advocating dishonesty. I’ve spoken on this blog about why I think this behavior is appealing to Evangelicals and other Trump supporters in spite of the obvious conflict. They are moralist who have almost nothing to moralize about without fags to pick on, or muslims, or women or whatever is on their list that day. They are willing to make faustian deals with anyone just to get an ounce of the superiority that gay-bashing provides. Their identities are based upon their ability to look down on someone “lesser” than themselves. The low-caste groups they love to hate are protected by political correctness. But, the moralists really want to call them names, pick on them and abuse them. The urge to bully others is a primary driver once it takes over.

They either can’t think for themselves or don’t want to; sometimes they are guided by religious dictates that require thoughtless allegiance to antiquated rules excluding “others”. They desperately try to maintain a status quo that has passed them by. Verbal meanness is something they have been denied by political correctness and it burns their biscuits. Trump has opened the floodgates of their anger and allows them to be as condescending as they want now. This will likely be their only reward from him.

Inbred prejudice is partly a survival mechanism; they are using what god gives them to survive. When they think about it, I mean seriously and objectively think, they realize that they aren’t treating others the way they would want to be treated and are embarrassed by their thoughts. It clashes with their prime religious directive, “Do unto others…” At least I hope that they are embarrassed, the future will be irredeemable if they are not. That dissonance makes them angrier. They see that they are on the poop end of the stick where it is quite unpleasant so they lash out at what they consider oppression. Passions are raised when they see gays getting legal protections and the muslims getting away with a normal life, and women as bosses so their gut level reaction is anger.

Unfortunately, their role-model is Donald Trump, who wears the facade of money well. His behavior is not the least bit polite. He looks great in a tux, but don’t mistake that for being civil. Dressing up a bully does not make the ill effects of his behavior any easier to take. Unless, of course, you have never stayed at a hotel as fancy as his, or worn your own tuxedo, or flown in your own jet. Those people fall for the shtick and the bluster. They know they are bound to this devil by their faustian bargain and at some point will begin to regret the deal. The politically correct people will eventually accept them back and forgive them because it is the PC thing to do. Until that happens Trump’s battle with civility must play out.

The hard part for evangelicals is that they gave up any moral high ground they may have had. In the past, they could at least say God was on their side. They can’t say that now, they made a deal with the devil and their’s is a vengeful god!

The Lie and The Metaphor

I grew up in a Funeral Home. I knew about death and practicalities of addressing death, it was a blunt reality. Death was a daily component of my life so I understood it on that level. What I didn’t understand was the way other people addressed the topic. Their language was full of softer words like passed, or passed on, passed away or gone to a better place and even ‘kicked the bucket’ which tried to lessen the impact of the word ‘death’.  They have met their maker, gone to heaven, bought the farm, or given up the ghost as substitutes are easier than saying, ‘she died’. The goal is to avoid discomfort and mask the permanence of death.

Since I only ever heard the blunt truth at home I would easily become confused with the euphemisms of the world. This would make me upset. I was well into my teens before I figured out what R.I.P. meant on all those cartoon tombstones, I never saw it on the real ones. In well-mannered society, people hide behind pleasant words; I was simply confused by them. They weren’t saying what they meant. I’m not afraid of dying so the words don’t bother me. I’d prefer to stick around and experience more of my existence, but the condition of being dead seems quite natural too. I will live on in the memories of those who encountered me in life and my composite chemicals and minerals will return to the earth to continue the process of nature.

People prefer the gentle lie over harsh truths. We mask the hard edges of emotional extremes with manners and polite words. We formalize the events of life with rituals and build elaborate myths to dull the impact of death. An Easter Bunny myth moderates the violent death-myth of a deity. Labeling the day of Jesus’s death as “Good Friday” is an early example of truthiness, but I’m getting ahead of myself here. What I’m saying is that lies are not necessarily bad. They assist us communicate the hard realities. Metaphors are lies too. They are acknowledged to be what they are, in order to assist communication. I hate reducing the poetic elegance of a metaphor into “lie” but it is. When lies are meant to assist communication we find them acceptable and even artistic on occasion. The difference between the art of language manipulation and blatant falsehoods is one of extremities.

Speaking untrue statements with the malicious intent, to mislead or deceive is harmful; these are lies. There is no good purpose to that deception. Intent separates a malicious lie from other figures of speech and minor untruths. What is the intent of the speaker of lies? Who are they harming by making the statement? Why would people cause harm through lies? Well, that is a bigger topic than one expects to find in this discussion. Lets just say for now that evil exists.

What compels a serial teller-of-lies to do so? We seem to have a President who tells lies with the ease of a poet using metaphors. He sprinkles his statements with falsehoods as if he were clarifying his point. The problem is we are not sure how to take it. His spokespeople tell us to ignore his words and listen to his heart. No one seems to know how to do that, so that advice doesn’t really help.

TruthinessdictStephen Colbert brought us the word “truthiness” in reaction to deceptive practices of the political right. Instinct, lies and gut feelings guide truthiness not logic or reason or facts. The right to discriminate is called Religious Freedom, Fresh Air legislation allows for more pollution, you know, that sort of thing. Religious Freedom sounds great, but if your religion is immoral enough to cause you to discriminate, then how is that freedom for the excluded class it creates? Deceptive tricks like this are not the way to run a country. Deception through misnomer is wrong. It is also a favorite tool of the Republican party, so after George Bush did such a bang-up job with the economy and getting us into some wars, Republicans thought they would try kicking it up a notch by electing Trump.

He is a far better liar than Bush. He doesn’t care if what he says make sense at all. His bullshit is not meant to be understood. So, forget about kicking buckets – it is best to call death, death in this circumstance. Although, kicking something may be quite satisfying. We just need the plain-spoken truth.

His most dangerous lie is the one that takes away our diversity. His staffer, Michael Anton speaks vociferously against diversity. This manifests in acts of omission such as leaving the mention of Jews out of the Holocaust Remembrance. Trump’s inaugural speech said nothing about the vast diversity of the country when other politicians make sure to mention every group they represent. Native Americans are not a good enough reason to stop the pipeline, and Mexicans are a good reason to build a wall. Christians get preferential treatment at the borders. If things go Trump’s way the melting pot of America will become a cold hard lump. And that, my friends, is a metaphor.