No matter where you turn lately—talk radio, TV, the internet, or politics— there is a seemingly sustained and concerted attack on the nebulous concept of “political correctness” as something that must be abolished in our society, in the most offensive manner possible, regardless of its effect on our social fabric.
This offensive against PC is oftentimes undertaken by pundits and politicos through the most ham-handed and blatantly belligerent means possible. Turn on your radio and you run the risk of hearing ‘El Rushbo’ running down women; check your Facebook feed and you are almost certain to see a meme posted by someone you know, criticizing Beyoncé’s Superbowl performance or parroting the us/them trope of black lives matters as an attack on the police. Every night we are assaulted with the latest Trumpism that includes something bigoted followed by the caveat that he is just “telling it like it is” and anyone who thinks otherwise is being PC and overly sensitive.
The constant attacking of taboos against being purposefully offensive, or bigoted, in polite society is fast leading to a climate that prevents any real discussions that can help move our country forward into the 21st century. The belittlement of those who demand civility as a social value is not going to make America great again. When people celebrate vulgarity and crass prejudice because it appeals to that small spark of evil within them that’s screaming to be released, it hurts America.
Ever since the “Great Society” movement of the 1960s, America has striven to be better. We worked hard to integrate our schools, struggled to create educational opportunities for everyone, and told our children that everyone should be equal because that is what American values demand of us as a pluralistic society. However, since the election of President Obama—a watershed moment in American history—there has been a concerted effort by certain elements of the media and by some malignant politicians who have found that they can gain attention and aspire to power by demonizing entire segments of our society and threatening the core values of America. They have found a way to channel the resentment of those stung by the end of Jim Crow and their desire to abandon civility. When people like Donald Trump shoot from the cuff and say hateful things, it’s liberating for them. It frees them from the burden of carefully deciding what they should and shouldn’t say; what social taboos they might break if they spout something racist or sexist.
When Trump rants and rails against immigrants or marginalizes entire segments of society, he’s not just speaking his mind—he’s helping some Americans lose theirs. When he gets into a game of one-upsmanship with Cruz and Rubio over who would be more effective in torturing people, and by what devious means they would use, a rational person would (and should) be horrorstruck. While people like Martin Luther King fought for decades to create society that strives for mutual respect, Trump’s supporters are excited by each and every hate-filled utterance as an undifferentiated instance of fighting back against political correctness—as if the ability to freely hate and spout xenophobia and bigotry is all that’s at stake this election cycle.
If Donald Trump wins the nomination for the Republican Party, it won’t be because voters are blind and deaf to his intolerance and bias politics, but rather because they understand it all too well and are desperate for it. Trump’s brand of politics cannot prevail in a contest of reason and rationality. They can only exist when we allow our national discussion to devolve into a contest of emotion where we abandon our civility. Political correctness serves to correct efforts like Trump’s. We must continue to expose him for what he is despite the best efforts of those who seek to abolish the values that actually make us great.