Political correctness is similar to smearing thick face paint on a grotesque visage, failing to obscure the offensive in a polite guise. The definition of political correctness is “the practice of using speech that conforms to liberal or radical opinion by avoiding language that may cause offense to social minorities.”
While the idea behind political correctness may be to eradicate speech that contains offensive or pernicious implications, it only perpetuates it in a euphemistic guise. Not only that, but by constantly being enforced and practiced by “polite” society, we make it far harder for individuals who aren’t acquainted with the “appropriate” speech to participate in the discussion.
In my efforts to convey my frustration with political correctness, I will discuss the linguistic treatment of the elderly, or the old, or the senior citizens of our community. At the moment, I believe “seniors” is the politically correct term.
With this in mind, imagine the following circumstances. You’re at work huddled around the water cooler with your fellow colleagues, discussing your views on current political, social, and cultural issues in hushed tones. Then striving to express himself, Frank expresses a rational view but accidentally inserts, “old people” and stops himself, painfully aware of the fact that he has just uttered something politically incorrect. Now this wouldn’t be such an issue if your coworker, Jerry, who is well over fifty years of age, is also participating in the same discussion. All of a sudden, there is tension in the air. Fearful of the fact that he has offended Jerry, Frank awkwardly gulps and changes the subject.
Looking at this painfully awkward discussion, I’m not saying we should be insensitive in our daily discourse, but we certainly should be given the freedom to be honest. By constantly updating the list of words that are socially taboo, we are increasingly hindered in our conversations.
I sincerely wish that the subject of the elderly were the only topic that were censored by political correctness, but it’s not. There’s a whole slew of controversial issues that people struggle to discuss for fear of using the incorrect terminology: Affirmative action, illegal immigration, the United States’ relationship with Middle Eastern nations.
As the intelligent and sensitive individuals that we are, I ask that we be allowed to discuss profound social issues in an open and sincere manner. Why can’t we tolerate politically incorrect speech for the sake of candid conversation? In essence, we should place more emphasis on what we’re saying as opposed to how we’re saying it.