The New Political Correctness

There is a new kind of Political Correctness that has taken root in America since the events of 9/11.  It's not even subject to debate any longer, but has appeared overnight as if orchestrated by some higher force wanting us all to Do The Right Thing.  Talking out against it is not just a bad idea, it could get you shunned at the very least or cost you a job at the its worst.

First, in my opinion, the current use of the term Political Correctness was invented by the right wing of American Politics in order to hide the fact that they want to be comfortable calling a spade a coon.  In the mid 80's people were so oversensitive about racial slurs and sexist insults that they started passing rules and "workplace principles" to guard against them.  I am kind of neutral about those rules, because I think it falls under being polite to call people what they want to be called.  Yes, before I was old enough to know anything about hateful speech, calling Black people "Boy" and women "Chick" "Babe" or "Honey" had died out everywhere but the less affluent areas of the South.  Not because of laws or rules, but because societal pressures and the demands of the workplace had made them a barrier to doing business.

But the few cases where people went overboard with it (because, let's be honest, someone, somewhere goes overboard with everything sooner or later) were held up by the people who missed being at the top of the food chain as examples of society run amok.  They got so good at making their case that the whole idea of "I'm not going to be Politically Correct" became ingrained into the pseudo defiant American culture.  It got to the point where anyone who did something rude, crude or socially unacceptable could get away with it by saying that they weren't PC.

For all intents and purposes, it was a tempest in a teapot.  Any business executive who got caught using a derogatory racial or gender term would be fired or disciplined, not because it wasn't "Politically Correct", but because they had offended a market group, and anything that affects the bottom line is far more important than any sort of so called "Political Correctness."

Besides, didn't the people who yelled the most about Politically Correctness being evil have their own forms of it?  Right Wing Rebloodlicans had to be anti-abortion or they weren't PC for that group's most fervent adherents. Left Wing Democrips had to ignore the growing divide between middle class and lower class blacks and refer to all blacks as if they were "at risk" or "urban" or they weren't PC for that group's most fervent adherents.  And even in this article, I have used the word "Black" instead of African American, which might cause a few people to think that I am not using the correct terminology of the day, but instead to show that a term might not be offensive...but we worry that someone else might think it is and take offence to it for someone who might.

The Political Correctness of the Post WTC era, however, seems to have sprung up from nowhere, and is far more insidious, since it has the echoes of McCarthyism, Japanese internment camps and other sedition acts that have been put in place and then broken down during America's past.  It is a political correctness of Patriotism, setting up a simplistic "Us Against Them" where you are either in lock-step in loving the country and its leaders, or desecrating the memories of those who died in the attack.  There is no choice about being a Patriot anymore, it seems, and articles that talk about it say it has "come back."

Come back form where?  The quickest way for a politician, performer or professional wrestler to get cheap applause is to say how much they love the USA.

The day after the attack, the comic shop I frequent had an American Flag in its display window and another one hanging by the register.  People were wearing flag lapel pins by the end of the week.  I shut down my pop-culture, current events humor website out of deference for the tragedy, but was asked by a number of people when I re-opened it why I didn't have any American Flag graphics on it.  Porn websites are now festooned with flag .gif files. Every search engine I use has a flag on its opening page.  I get at least three e-mails a day asking me to buy flag T-shirts, pins, mugs, mousepads and the like, all to show my resolve in the face of terrorism.  Here in Minnesota, the people who used to have Vikings Flags on their cars and SUVs now have American Flags instead so that we get the opportunity to stand up and salute while stuck in rush hour traffic.

I got e-mails saying that putting a flag on my humor site is "The least I could do."

And they were right.

All the new flag worship and unquestioning support we are being told to give is the very least we can do.  And most people are content with doing the least they can do.  They have also turned that "least you can do" into a chilling kind of societal control.  It shows in the newest "Urban Legends" making their rounds on the net.  Within days of the attack, I got e-mails about foreign workers at three different plants having to be protected by police for cheering the attack which never happened.  Five came in about people being fired for putting up American Flags at their jobs, which also not only never happened, but is about as likely as a major party political candidate announcing they are a Pagan.  And do we need to further discuss Jerry Falwell saying it's all the fault of liberals and gays while Pat Robertson played Ed McMahon, agreeing and saying, "You are correct, yes!"

What do they and all the others floating around point to?  Better be American.  Better love the flag.  To do anything else could get you shunned, as if you were Amish with a CD player.

For example, Bill Mahr of "Politically Incorrect" has had almost all sponsorship pulled from his show because he said that the characterization of the perpetrators of the attack as cowards was misleading.  He further stated that we have been the cowards, afraid to risk a single soldier's life and lobbing missiles from hundreds of miles away in our last few military operations.  No less than the press secretary of the President said that what he said was wrong, un-American and White House pressure to have the show taken off the air was described by the Press Secretary in these exact words:

"The reminder is to all Americans, that they need to watch what they say, watch what they do, and that this is not a time for remarks like that."

Which would have been chilling four months ago. Now, we just accept it.

The White House later dropped "watch what they say" from its official transcript. Why?  Why not let the word go forth from this time and place that there is a new form of Political Correctness, and it will be enforced from the corporate world to the political world on down.  That you will be unwaveringly patriotic or face dire consequences.  You won't question the use of the American Flag in the corner of your TV screen while watching a football game, Charmed or a re-run of "Friends".  You won't question our public leaders, because to do so would dishonor those who died.  This is not the time for remarks like that.

You know.  Like the truth.

I won't fly a flag on my website.  I won't put one on my car.  People of over 60 nationalities died in that attack.  Should I put the flags of the other countries on my car as well?  Or aren't their countries as important as ours.  Aren't their lives worth as much as American lives?  No, we honor the dead by refusing to worship a flag, but instead be citizens of the world, seeing this as an attack on civilization, as all attacks on innocents are, even if the US or one of its allies does it.

I won't be quiet either.  I will criticize the people in power as I always have.  I will honor the dead by exercising my freedom to have a differing opinion and not to follow leaders with hidden agendas blindly.  Only three times in America's history has there been a law to keep people from expressing opposing viewpoints, and each time it was because of a "crisis". Each time, after the crisis passed, the law was struck down by the courts, but only after the crisis.  With Bush's people saying this could last for years, and the enemy being nebulous at best, do we want to put our freedoms on hold for another crisis?  We honor the dead by fighting for the freedoms that we won and have to keep fighting for every day, including the right to disagree with the leaders who interpret those rights incorrectly and to their own gain.

Oh, we haven't lost the right to speak out, dissent or just not have flags all over the house by law.  We've lost it in a more subtle way.  Society has decided that these rights are gone.  Society has decided that now is the time for the Norman Rockwell patriotism based on trusting those in power and God to take care of us.  To exercise the freedom of speech is now Politically Incorrect.  To believe more in what the flag is supposed to symbolize than the symbol of the flag itself is now Politically Incorrect.

And I think that is a lot more serious than being unable to tell the babe in accounting to bring you a cup of coffee.

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