We have insisted for a while now that ‘political’ correctness’ is simply about manners. My standard line is simple: political correctness was one thing in my fourth grade classroom with Mrs. Kingsborrow, another thing on the elementary school playground, and quite another in my mother’s kitchen. The political right wing of America is embroiled in opposition to ‘political correctness’. This is likely because they do not know how to express themselves without being rude and crude. But even the right wing has a behavioral code.
Check the picture to the left. The ravenous right wing apparently thinks that political correctness is okay when they are the people offended. Those folks are all in a toot about men wearing their pants below the line of their underwear. I admit that I also think the fashion is rude – but people do what people do. To clarify – if someone offends you with their behavior or choice of fashion statement I do believe you have the right to say so. The mannerism you chose to challenge someone else’s mannerism is in itself governed by social rules of political correctness.
Let’s take a look at some definitions of manners.
What do you think. I remember back in the 1950’s it was customary to refer to black people as the “N” word. Did you notice that I did not actually type the word? Polite manners today suggest that even typing the word is in poor taste. And I agree, somewhat. My position is that the “N” word should not be removed from Mark Twain’s literature. I think it is poor manners to attempt to change great literature.
Really people. Look at those definitions of manners. Civilization and technology have evolved to a point where customs in one geographic area affect the sensibilities in other geographic areas. Cultures clash. When one culture insists on imposing their manners on another culture then we have conflict. And I believe that conflict is at the root of the present squabbles over political correctness.
I am the President of the Board of The Alano Club of St. Joseph, Missouri, Inc. There are thirty-six 12 Step meetings each week in our building. At the entrance to the building there is a patio with a picnic table. People gather around that table before and after their meetings. Cultures clash.
Al-Anon, a program for families of the addicted, is an older crowd of mostly women. Many women entering Al-Anon today come because of their children. The children drink or use drugs and the mothers and grandmothers go to Al-Anon to learn how to cope and how to set appropriate boundaries.
Narcotics Anonymous is largely populated with a younger crowd. (There are a couple of drug addicts in our NA group that are older than me, and I am a senior). 6:30 PM to 7:00 PM is a time between meetings where two diverse cultures meet. The young street talking people from NA are gathering for their 7:00 Meeting. Al-Anon has just finished their 5:30 PM meeting and are exiting the building.
The language of the young group is peppered with the “F” word. Tattoos abound. The older Al-Anon group slowly filters out, still talking as they walk, about life’s concerns. These moments usually pass without incident. It seems that each culture respects the other and does not wish to cause distress. This behavior is called ‘having good manners’ – not wishing to cause discomfort to others.
I like political correctness. I like it in the sense that it informs us of how we should behave in the presence of a different culture. There are no written rules about this (OK, you can order Gloria Vanderbilt’s works on proper etiquette). Social regulation takes care of most of these problems.