Monday, November 14, 2016

One Man's Political Correctness...

Listening to news and analysis following the shocking election of Donald Trump last week, I heard someone suggest that the number-one fatal mistake that Clinton made was that she used the word “deplorable” when referring to Trump supporters.

Never mind that she was talking about one subset of Trump's supporters, for example, those from the alt-right who have a habit of gleefully sharing Internet memes featuring Pepe the Frog or monkey caricatures of Obama.

That distinction, of course, got lost, and it seems every last Trump supporter felt insulted by her remarks. No doubt that was not Clinton’s intention, but it did open herself up for misinterpretation. It was political malpractice in the extreme, so the commentary went, to use such a derogatory term for any voter.

That got me to thinking. Looking at it that way, it was political in-correctness that did Clinton in. She applied an offense, impolite term to a large group of people. She painted a lot of folks with the same broad brush. She forgot to be politically correct.

This is hugely ironic, of course. Folks who constantly warn that America is endangered by “political correctness”, folks who shrug off the notion that there’s anything wrong with Trump calling illegal migrants “rapists and murders” or Syrian refugees “terrorists” or women “fat pigs”, these same folks take offense, YUGE offense, when called “deplorable” by Hillary Clinton. And, oh yes, “irredeemable”.  

Should they take offense? Maybe so. Actually, who could blame them? Should hard-working undocumented workers from Mexico take also offense being called “rapists” by Donald Trump? Well, heavens forbid no, because that was just Trump speaking his mind, and as we all know “speaking your mind” is the highest form of expression. Clinton, on the other hand, was just being condescending and rude. 

Logical, right?

The thing that has bothered me for so long about the right's obsession with the “political correctness” boogieman and Trump's willingness to give it the middle finger is this: using measured language and holding back your most primal thoughts might actually serve a purpose in a society where not everyone is a clone of yourself. It might help moderate the temperature of personal interactions. It might help maintain social harmony. It might help people get along.

Maybe you desperately want to tell the guy sitting in the pew next to you in church that he’s an “asshole”, because deep down inside that’s what you think he is. Maybe you're dying to tell your wife to for God's sake please lose some weight. 

Wouldn’t it be wonderful to be like Trump and throw off the shackles of political correctness and just say out loud what’s on your mind?

Such liberating free speech can have consequences, however. Your fellow congregant might stand up and punch you in the nose. Your wife might exact revenge in unspeakable ways. American voters might discover more reasons to despise Hillary Clinton. And Donald Trump might succeed wildly and get himself elected president.* Things work differently for him, it seems.

Last week on Facebook, I called Trump supporters “gullible” and was promptly told to “shut up”. Maybe I deserved that. What I said was insulting, especially if his supporters didn't really believe his endless casual lies, but supported him for purely cynical reasons. 

But it was what was on my mind at the time. I was just saying what I thought. I wasn't holding back. 

Well, that's not entirely true. What was really on my mind was far worse. So, now I have a dilemma. In the future, should I be more politically correct and refrain from saying anything remotely insulting about anyone who voted for Trump. Or should I take the less politically correct road traveled by Donald Trump himself and call many of them ignorant (as opposed to merely "gullible"), or even racist? 

I always thought I was much more comfortable with the first option, but maybe I should get with the times and go with the other one.

* By the Electoral College, not the popular vote. 

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