If an individual chooses, of his own volition, to refrain from the use of certain words, phrases, or characterizations that have in the past been part of his or her political discourse, on whom should the responsibility for that constraint — essentially an act of self-censorship — rest?
Should the individual himself accept responsibility for actions he takes of his own free will, or should he — in what essentially is an act of self-victimization — seek to blame someone or something else?
For many, it appears, their self-induced silence with respect to such words is the fault of a concept they derisively refer to as “political correctness.” And this makes them very angry. But again, I ask, at whom should they be angry?
There are, insofar as I know, no civil or criminal penalties for the use of “politically incorrect” terminology (although I must admit that I am not sure what those words are since the complainants almost never state what those taboo words are, only that they are words they dare not utter). If, as a result, they feel victimized, it is a form of self-victimization.
Although the First Amendment is not absolute, there is such wide latitude in application of that amendment by citizens that the words they want to use but feel constrained not to use are protected speech. They do indeed have a right to express those opinions, and the fact that they do not is a choice they make.So, why do they not express their sentiments and move on?
It seems to me that what they really want is not the opportunity to use their own words and characterizations (which they have now as a matter of constitutional law). Rather, they want to say what they want to say, when they want to say it, and how they want to say it without consequence or challenge. Well, when has that ever been the case?
Over the last 40 years, I have written scores of op-ed pieces that have been published in various newspapers and online publications. I knew going in that such public expressions could subject one to some degree of opprobrium. If I cease to write, or if I write to avoid controversy or criticism (rather than speak my mind), it is no one’s fault but my own. So it is with those who use the nebulous term “political correctness” as their whipping boy for their own acts of self-restraint.
What prompted this post was an excerpt from a video of a focus group conducted by GOP operative Frank Luntz with a group of South Carolinians after the Republican debate in North Charleston recently. When the topic shifted to political correctness, a number of the participants talked about wanting to be able to use the words they wanted to use to express themselves rather than what they viewed as politically correct terminology.
One said she had a “right to her opinion,” which indeed she does. So, why not express it? Keep in mind, however, that the freedom of expression is a double-edged sword: whereas you have the right to speak your mind, those who disagree with you have that right in equal measure.
Another participant said that political correctness was “reverse discrimination.” I am not sure how the concept of reverse discrimination applies to an individual’s self-imposed moratorium on certain speech, but I would suggest that he say what is on his mind.
To borrow a line from the play Julius Caesar, with respect to the speech restraints we impose on ourselves, “the fault dear Brutus lies not in our stars but in ourselves.”