I refuse to link to any of the coverage of the stupid Starbucks coffee cup, because I refuse to give anyone ad revenue for the awful, useless non-story that it really is. I further refuse to acknowledge any point of view that isn’t “this is a vapid, useless thing to get worked up about” or “The guy who got everyone all worked up about these is a con-man.”
Really, I just want to stop hearing and talking about it. So, let’s stop.
What I want to talk about instead is political correctness: that invisible social contract oft-lamented by those who feel they’re unable to live up to it. That feeling that you have to walk on eggshells in order to not offend someone you’ve never met before. [I think there is another side to this discussion that I’ll likely explore in a later post, but for now, this one goes out to people who whine about everyone being “too PC”]
I fully understand, it is hard to acknowledge that you have made a mistake.
Several years ago, when I was first considering writing as a hobby and a potential future career, I wondered what would happen if I inadvertently offended someone. Hurting people is something I try to avoid, but when you have large feet as I do (literal and somehow metaphorical), I suppose it’s inevitable. I am also limited to only the experiences that I have, which means that where experiences that are offensive to other people may skip my radar entirely.
I don’t believe that people go through life actively trying to offend people; I say making the exception for people like Rush Limbaugh.
We are human beings, we are going to step on one anothers’ toes, and we are going to do it most of the time by accident. The real show of character is what you do when it’s been pointed out. You can either acknowledge that you’ve done something wrong and apologize, or throw a tantrum about how you never get your way. One of these is decency and the other is the type of thing people who bemoan political correctness seem to do; i’ll leave you to determine which is which.
The thing I realized about my writing, and about my life, is that I am not doing either thing in a vacuum, and one decision does not stick with me for the rest of my life. There are people I can ask about things. There are people who care enough about me that they’ll try to stop me from putting my feet in things. I am also capable of learning from my mistakes and growing as a person. But for those who lament the PC culture, I can only really come up with a couple of explanations:
- No one in their life cares enough to correct them before they say something stupid publicly.
- People have tried to stop them, and were ignored or punished for it.
Which, in a way that I really hate, brings me back to the War on Christmas: Many of the complaints about replacing “Merry Christmas” with “Happy Holidays” cite political correctness as the reason for the switch. It smacks of not only selfishness, but a painful lack of self-awareness. These are people mad because their holidays aren’t being mentioned, oblivious to the fact that previously other people weren’t and they were graceful about it.
Political correctness, in a way, is like a pizza party. When you throw a pizza party, you’re bribing people to come and hang out with you in return for pizza. If you had only meat-laden pizzas, you’d be leaving all of your vegetarian friends out of the meal. If you threw this party and didn’t get some kind of cheese-free pizza, your lactose-intolerant friends wouldn’t come (or they might, and would simply be hangry at everyone). Same for gluten-free pizzas for your friends suffering from Celiac’s.
A phrase like “Happy Holidays” is the cheese pizza of holiday wishes. It’ll sort out most, but not all, of your guests, whereas “Merry Christmas” is the bacon meat lover’s artery-clogging ‘stravaganza. People may not express offense to your face if you offer them a bacon-slathered pizza in spite of a Kosher (or similar) diet, but they might be somewhat privately miffed about it.
This is to say that, sure, you can buy only one type of pizza. It’s a free country, and the Government can’t stop you from expressing your First Amendment rights through pizza. That remains a point of view you’re welcome to adopt, just don’t be surprised if you get fewer and fewer guests coming to each party. In the same way, you don’t have to be “P.C.” if you don’t want to, just don’t be surprised if more and more people call you a selfish ass.