Politically correct! Doesn’t it just make your skin crawl? Why are we so focused on emphasizing what’s “politically” correct? Since when are politicians the people that we want to model our lives after? I guess, actually, since the ancient times, when they had statues made of them, held all the power in the world and got to take their expensive, state-of-the-art, private rowboats to their summer getaways, such as Pompeii. But it’s not like we still let them get away with that, right?
But what does “politically correct” even mean, anyway? To me, it sounds like a framework in which you can’t say anything that a politician wouldn’t say. So, the truth comes to mind. And that’s the worse part about this euphemizing process on our life — or perhaps I should say euthanizing. When that phrase starts getting thrown around like pies on The Bozo Show, it’s usually because we are in fact hiding from the truth. Hiding behind that creamy, lemon meringue filling. Only, if you really take a lick, it’ll probably taste more like shaving cream, with a couple hairs in it, too. But the hairs are long and purple, and they’re definitely not yours.
Now, it’s not always the phrase itself that holds those precious dollops of truth. But rather the reality lies in the fact that we choose to edit, audit and retract a society with freedom of speech (I can feel Georgie-Porgie Orwell turning over in his grave. 1984? Try 2012). And this truth comes down to one simple conclusion: aliens must in fact exist! But more precisely, people, all sorts of people, say, think and believe completely derogative and offensive things. Surprise!
Politically correct — it’s just so PC. And aren’t we the generation that’s trying to live by the Mac? Didn’t the Book of Jobs give us the 11th commandment: “Thou Shalt Not PC!”
But enough about computers, maybe we should take a closer look at our stereos too. Types that is. Stereotypes are an integral part of life. Some of them are good, vital even. If you see a mob of people foaming at the mouth with pitchforks in hand, you can pretty much assume they’re angry. And my advice: run away. Stereotypes are just assumptions really. While perhaps assumptions may offer the crude joke of making an “Ass out of ‘u’ and me,” assumptions are how we survive. It’s part of our evolutionary process. But it can go oh so wrong.
When we wake up in the morning (feeling like P. Diddy), we sit down to a nice hearty breakfast and before you know it, we’re gulping down a nice cold glass of prejudice (low pulp for me, please). We walk around society and judge strangers on assumptions alone. And often one of the earliest judgments is on how offensive someone else appears. We get upset or angry even when someone belittles people we know and even others from some other recognizable group. But there you have it: “recognizable groups.” It makes it sound like I’m comparing apples and oranges. Birds and lizards. Humans and other humans. Oh, wait, I am.
We’re divided. It happens au naturale, kind of like puberty. You keeping growing until you’re a lanky giant, your voice starts chirping and hair starts growing out of opening you didn’t even know you had. Yet, we try to pretend as though nothing has changed (Oh, middle school). We’re just the same cute kids from yester year, right? Similarly, society tries to pretend like we’re all unified, one group, one humanity — and while in a perfect world that would be lovely — in our very imperfect world, that pipe dream is blinding us like the flash of a camera — if the camera is owned by a preteen who won’t stop taking selfies. I prefer to champion these differences. There are so many things that divide us: religion, color, history, clothing, food. Just to name a few of the billions.
But what role does humor play in this conversation? Comedians abound often rely on stereotypes, some self-deprecating, and others not. But our society talks about negative cultures and often comedy gets attacked for perpetuating these stereotypes and prejudices. But when Shakespeare wrote “Othello,” was he purposefully being misogynist and racist? Some have and will argue a resounding and barbaric “Yawp!” But I see it differently: I prefer to think that he rather captured the stereotypes of his day, stripped them of their societal norms and presented them to his peers, in the light, in plain language. Plain for them, at least.
So, the next time you hear someone say something offensive, think before you judge. Maybe teach before you preach. Even get to know them over a piece of lemon meringue pie, sans the hair this time.
David Fontana is a senior in the College of Arts and Sciences and a Fall 2012 columnist for The Daily Free Press. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.