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Politically Incorrect

Like many who are or were journalists, I have a great regard for Freedom of Expression. Like most writers, I believe that to be one of the true cornerstones to American democracy and the American way of life. It is also a responsibility that should be wielded with wisdom, courtesy and regard for others.

That said I have an inherent dislike for political correctness. Even if I disagree with the sentiment, I am a firm believer that the person expressing it has a right to do so, even if it labels them as a racist, a homophobe, a misogynist or a just plain asshole.

Some words are hurtful, no doubt about it. Maturity and compassion dictate that you shouldn’t use those words out of respect to others. Not everybody, however, possesses those qualities. Some people are immature and hateful, and express themselves accordingly. I tend to avoid people like that, but I wouldn’t come out and say they don’t have a right to say what they feel. Of course, I have the same right to tell them that they’re behaving like jerks.

I distrust anyone who says that such discourse shouldn’t be allowed. People shouldn’t make jokes that come at the expense of women, ethnic groups, religious beliefs or lifestyle choices, particularly on public airwaves where impressionable sorts will hear them and get the idea that sort of behavior is okay.

I disagree with that 100%. First of all, I try to give people credit for understanding the difference between telling a joke about gay people and being homophobic. Sure, there are people who don’t get it – but they’re not going to get it whether they hear the joke on a street corner or on the Tonight Show. Quite frankly, those people are ignorant and you could keep them in school for a hundred years and they’ll still be ignorant.

We have a culture that tends to respond to the lowest common denominator. I believe that most people have enough sense and maturity to be able to hear things that are unpleasant or even hurtful without having their day ruined. If someone makes remarks about my weight, my lack of hair, my age or my Cuban background, I chalk it up as someone who has issues and has to make other people feel bad in order to feel good. Some of those people need therapy, and others are losers to the core and can’t be saved.

I’m not saying that you should go out there and start using hateful language that’s sure to offend. Once again, it’s a matter of common sense. Offending people unnecessarily accomplishes nothing. Most people who go out there to offend people are doing it to get attention. Wise people simply don’t give it to them.

We don’t always act with wisdom, however. Instead, we raise a hue and cry about how people are supposed to act and tell people they’re not allowed to act in a certain manner. I, for one, hate to be told that I can’t do something. It is supposedly a free country after all.

When a comedian points out a foible that has a ring of truth to it, I laugh. Laughter is a very powerful thing. It can make an emotion more powerful, or lessen the power of another. When behavior is made to be ridiculous, that behavior becomes less threatening. Yes, some comedians can go too far from time to time, but that’s all right. When a comedian onstage makes a joke about gay men being catty or fashion-conscious, I understand that it’s a stereotype and a behavior that is being joked about; it is not an indictment against homosexuality.

You see, the problem is that some people don’t think that gay men or African-Americans or women can laugh at themselves, or perhaps that they shouldn’t laugh at themselves. I contend that if you can’t laugh at yourself, then when someone makes a joke about you, you are being laughed at; when you are able to laugh at yourself in the same circumstance, you are being laughed with. The difference is tangible and crucial.

Laughter unites us. It makes us stronger, and allows us to see our own faults. Humor can soften harsh realities. Sure, there are people who make jokes at the expense of others for the sole purpose of hurting them but for the most part, I believe them to be a very small minority. Most people who make jokes are doing so to get a laugh. It takes some inner strength to be able to laugh at ourselves, and that inner strength can be channeled in many positive ways.

We use political correctness as a means of shaming people into behaving a certain way, and that’s one of the things I despise most about it. For example, we’ve created a societal stigma about guys who watch porn. Obviously, they’re all perverts, right? They see women as objects and can’t have a real relationship because they disrespect women; if they didn’t, they would never look at a picture of a nude woman, or watch a movie in which women do all sorts of sexual acts with all sorts of people.

Now, I’m not one to deny that there aren’t guys like that out there, but I think a lot of women would be surprised that not every guy who likes porn is a lowlife scumbag would-be rapist. Not every guy is into porn but many that are into it are actually decent guys. They find the sight of a naked woman beautiful, and they are stimulated by the sexual act. They can enact fantasies that they would never dream of asking their mate to participate in by watching others do it. It satisfied a need in that regard, but we consider that behavior objectionable and we make people feel bad for having those needs in the first place.

That’s judgmental and arrogant to say the least. People feel what they feel; not everything we feel is polite or nice, but sometimes we just have to go with it. If people like sex – women as well as men – that’s only natural. Demonizing those people is only a sign of our own insecurity. Women who like sex are not sluts; they’re just women who like sex. Men who like porn are not perverts; they’re just men who like porn. That may not be a politically correct view but frankly I don’t give a rat’s ass.

Self-expression should be guided by one’s conscience and one precept alone; does it hurt anybody. If you can answer that question with a no, then fine. However, if the answer is yes then you should think long and hard about saying what you want to say. Common courtesy tells us that we should try to avoid hurting others as much as we can.

However, that doesn’t mean that we have the right to regulate how people express themselves. Our laws provide that truth is protection against libel, but no law anywhere on the planet protects us from offense. Being offended is simply a fact of life. I get offended nearly every time Sarah Palin opens her mouth, but I would not deny her the right to speak her peace.

We spend far too much time apologizing for what we say and how we feel. None of us are perfect and none of us are going to express ourselves perfectly. Most of us do the best we can and sometimes there are jackwagons out there who say things just to get attention; most of them are adolescent little boys who will eventually grow out of it although unfortunately, on the Internet, what you say is eternal and someday you may have cause to regret what you post. The 16-year-old dumbass who posts that illegal workers should be shot on sight, all Mexicans are inferior and that gay people are all going to hell may find those remarks coming back to haunt them when they run for office 30 years down the line. However, that 16-year-old shouldn’t be told he can’t say those things but personally I might sit that 16-year-old down and have a real conversation with them. Maybe he needs to meet a few Mexican-Americans and gay people. Maybe he just needs to learn the consequences of his freedom of speech. Either way, as hateful as remarks like that are, I can’t bring myself to say that they can’t be spoken or written. Telling people how to think and restricting what they can say just seems far worse than being offended by those sorts of remarks.

So to Reverend Fred Phelps of the Westboro Baptist Church of Topeka, Kansas, I say go on and say that God hates fags. Feel free to picket at the funerals of soldiers who died in Afghanistan defending this country. You have every right to do so. It makes it easier to figure out that you’re a USDA choice, grade-A meathead with nothing valid to say. After all, I have the right to tell a guy like that to go straight to Hell and urinate on a Bible in front of his church if he has the right to say the things that he says, right?


2 Responses

  1. Rights also mean responsibilities. The majority of us behave responsibly, the minority get the press and one can’t help wonder if that is what drives their poor misbegotten selves.

  2. I like your blog Carlos and it makes me go hmmmmm. I can agree with a lot of it too. It also made me think of Hercules Fence on Maricamp road in Ocala. I love this guys marquee sign that always has something different to read every week. Sometimes his sign offends people and it has made the news often. The last time was about 2 weeks ago when it had something about breast check up ahead…have them out and ready and then it said something about rednecks..it was funny. Some people with a breast cancer organization took it wrong and made a big deal about it. All I can say is if you take things too seriously, nothing will be funny.

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