Are some of these terms offensive? Perhaps for some, but not me. Why? Because they’re just words, people! I am a writer. I celebrate words. And I don’t discriminate—I love them all. I celebrate each word’s Etymologies: its history, its languages of origin, the meaning of its root words, its place in our culture, and its evolution over time. I appreciate how words reflect our differences through dialect, pejorative, and hyperbole. Words tell us so much more than the word says itself by its very meaning. A word, whether spoken or written, reflects the user’s level of education, values, feelings, culture and ethnicity.
It has become a witch hunt of sorts these days, vaguely reminiscent of the days of U.S. Senator Joseph McCarthy. Every time I watch the evening news, open my personal e-mail or peruse the Internet, I am bombarded by streaming news of writers, politicians, celebrities, sports figures, and artists crucified for insensitive comments. How this happens, with the legions of PR folks paid to manage the verbal diarrhea, is truly beyond me. All of this political correctness has spawned what I like to refer to as the “Gold Star Syndrome,” where the first person to admonish another for his or her political incorrectness earns the gold star for the day. What is the result? Carefully scripted press releases by people who do not wish to be publically flogged for every verbal misstep. The PC Police are ever-vigilant.
At times, language or verbiage is unmistakably offensive; other times, the offended parties seem only interested in furthering their own social or political agenda. This is America. I served four years in my beloved Marine Corps (which, by the way, has taken political incorrectness to an entirely new level) to preserve those freedoms which ensure the rights of the stupid and idiotic to say pretty much whatever the hell they want. I could also defend the use of curse words in the common vernacular because, from a historical perspective, profanity has been used in our English language since medieval times, many having originally derived from Old English (e.g. shit — interj. Vulgar Slang. Used to express anger or disappointment. [Middle English shiten, to void excrement, Old English scīan (attested only in compound bescītan, to befoul). See skei- in Appendix.*]
The one caveat is that a place of business, educational institution, or public office absolutely must dictate what is, and what is not, acceptable language. Granted. But, be careful, folks. Because when you tread on the rights of every wackadoo and nut bag who issue forth an opinion, either privately or in public, you’re doing the exact same thing to yourself. The destruction of the fundamental right to self-expression happens in the tiniest degrees, as most bad things tend to do and, in our zeal to make everyone feel comfortable, we are dancing dangerously close to the flames of institutionalized thinking.
I always cringe when I hear well-meaning people talk about prohibiting groups like the Klu Klux Klan from organizing publicly to prevent them from spewing their racial hatred. I say, “Let ‘em spew!” Nothing changes hearts or minds faster than the public outcry elicited by such an event. Don’t allow old fears and hatreds to fester in the darkness, hidden away behind closed doors, skulking about in back rooms, waiting to corrupt the hearts and minds of the innocent. Bring them out into the light. Offer those with differing viewpoints to express them openly, without fear of governmental, legal, or media reprisal, in order to begin the necessary dialogue that will truly usher in change.
For those of you who have eagerly enlisted to the ranks of the Politically Correct, it is my personal opinion that a hyper-sensitivity to certain words only belies your own emotional baggage, feelings of inequity, or insecurities. It also invites further abuse. So, pull on your big-boy (or big-girl) pants and stop acting like a victim. I appreciate any person with the stones to even HAVE an opinion on much of anything these days, especially if it runs counter to the delicate sensitivities of society as a whole. Since when does the good of the whole supersede the rights of the individual?
Here’s what I think. If you have something to say, for heaven’s sake, say it. Say it in your own voice, write it in your own words, and create it in your own style— political correctness be damned. Do not be afraid, PC people! You can handle this. Really.