What it takes to always be politically correct
To always be politically correct (PC), you must be very silent, very lucky, smarter than President Obama, or walk on eggshells.
Intelligence and education insufficient to prevent PC blunders
One might think that President Obama's background, intelligence, and Ivy League education would keep him from making PC blunders, but no. Appearing on The Tonight Show with Jay Leno, President Obama said, “It's like, it was like the Special Olympics or something” in referring to his low bowling score.
Had President George W. Bush similarly insulted the disabled, liberal activists would have tarred and feathered him, excoriating him for years afterward. However, the liberal outrage over Obama's blunder was surprisingly mild. ABC News wasn't happy about it, nor was Tim Shriver, chairman of the Special Olympics. Rahm Emanuel, then White House chief of staff, also apologized to the Special Olympics head after he called a group of liberal activists “fucking retarded.”
Obama and Emanuel stepped into rather obvious potholes, but I've done the same thing, although in different ways. I have a doctorate degree, yet I am socially a dunce and often unaware of what is common knowledge to others. I've had celebrity patients and didn't know who they were until a nurse told me, I've had women come on to me and not realized it until years later after several people interpreted rather obvious signs, and I've used words that others deem non-PC (although many of those words are commonly heard on television and were used by my professors). One of my former neighbors had an insightful observation: that all of the time I spent cloistered from others in medical school or later playing with transistors stunted my social growth; she wisely noted that doctor-patient interactions are too scripted to substitute for other social interactions.
It isn't easy keeping up with all non-PC words and phrases; virtually everyone makes such blunders, which I'll prove in another article. Even when the hazard is well-known, even intelligent and educated people can say things that make them sound boorish. Even Pope Francis.
Walking on eggshells to avoid PC hazards
Soon after I learned of my Native American ancestry, my best friend sometimes called me “Chief.” I knew she was just kidding around (we're almost always playfully kidding around about something!), and I knew she wasn't being malicious, yet whenever she said it, it stung, as if I'd been jabbed with a needle.
I didn't initially tell her how that made me feel. Instead, I tried to insulate myself by remembering how she bends over backwards to never say anything offensive or hurtful, and how she was clearly using “Chief” without malice. Months later, after the “Chief” fad died out, I explained how I reacted to it.
She was surprised that I took offense to it because, on the face of it, an Indian Chief is an esteemed leader, thus it should be complimentary to call someone a “Chief.” Perhaps it should, but that wasn't how I perceived it.
Explaining why it hurt isn't easy, but I'll try. By trying to dissect my emotional reaction to it, my first guess was that it stung because I was referred to using a term that referenced my group, not my individuality. However, that didn't adequately explain it, because I've been called “Doctor” many times. Some doctors don't like it when they are called “Doctor” without appending their surname to it: Doctor Pezzi, in my case. That never bothered me. Patients and staff could call me Doctor, Doc, Doctor Pezzi, Kevin, Dr. Pizza—anything. It was all fine with me, but I liked Dr. Pizza the best. :-)
My second explanation was that “Chief” was the male equivalent of “Squaw,” a term that strikes me as deliberately disparaging. (John Two-Hawks has a good discussion of commonly used words that offend Indian people.)
I was surprised by the intensity of my reaction to being called “Chief” because I am generally not very sensitive to verbal barbs. The only ones I recall that bothered me were when I was called “nigger nose,” “nigger lips,” “bucky,” and “Mr. Magoo” (because I was legally blind without Coke-bottle glasses) during my childhood.
I was so emotionally traumatized by being repeatedly called “nigger lips” that I delayed starting college for a year so I could work to save enough money to pay a plastic surgeon to make my lips smaller. He did that, which I now realize was a monumental mistake. I now think that larger lips are much more attractive than smaller ones, and they can impart more pleasure while kissing. Having large lips is enviable and one of the hallmarks of beauty. If that plastic surgeon were competent, instead of being a licensed moneygrubbing technician, he would not have done the surgery. However, too many doctors are too eager to brush their professional obligations aside if they can make money from patients. As an extreme example, consider Michael Jackson's plastic surgeons. Jackson was a perfectly attractive young man who didn't need plastic surgery; instead, he needed to overcome his distorted image of himself as being unattractive.
People often care how doctors assess their appearance, so doctors should not botch opportunities to correct mistaken self-perceptions. When I worked as an ER doctor, women who came in for other reasons would sometimes suddenly and without warning drop their gowns, asking me what I thought about their breasts or legs. For them to do that, I knew they must have been very bothered by their appearance, which they or someone close to them questioned. Interestingly, in every case I remember, the breasts or whatever were at least average if not greatly above average in terms of appearance. Hence, I knew that people often discount their appearance, fretting over flaws they don't have.
People in general are too hard on themselves. As an ER doc, I've seen the naked bodies of professional athletes, models, celebrities, and TV babes, many of whom possessed beauty flaws they are good at concealing or are airbrushed out with Photoshop or, more cleverly, by special video software that correct wrinkles and whatnot in real-time. This gives people and especially women an overly idealized conception of what beauty is; believe me, the bar is not as high as you may think.
ER ≠ cosmetic & plastic surgery clinic
Much to my surprise, I found that some patients think they can go to the ER for anything and have any procedure done there, even cosmetic or plastic surgery, which might explain why various female patients asked my opinion about their breasts or whatnot (one lady came to the ER via ambulance after dialing 911 because she wanted to know if her vagina was tight enough). I never performed such procedures in the ER, except on nurses and other staff on nights the ER was very slow.
Is “Dago” always an offensive slur?
My best friend in high school was Italian and enjoyed being called “Dago” so much he made it his nickname. When we formed a corporation years later, he named it Pago: a portmanteau (blend of two or more words) of Pezzi and Dago.
After seeing his pleased reaction, people who heard his friends calling him “Dago” might easily conclude that it isn't always offensive. I've had other friends who gave themselves nicknames that many others would deem offensive, so there isn't always universal consensus whether a word should be used or relegated to the ash heap of history.
If the principle is that one does not have the right to make others feel bad, then I have the right to not be called “Chief.” However, using that same principle, my friend could also assert that I do not have the right to make her feel bad about using that word, or some other word that precipitated offense, unless she used it in a malicious, premeditated way obviously intended to cause offense. If she used it inadvertently, as by ignorance of its offensive nature, or if she had reason to believe the word was acceptable, then I don't have the right to excoriate her for using it or, as Media Matters did in my case, to wage an all-out war or jihad in which fanatical followers operating by their own twisted logic attempt to impose their standards on everyone except their political allies. That's why Media Matters goes bonkers with manufactured outrage when their political opponents make a mistake, or even an imagined mistake, yet they don't lambaste President Obama or Rahm Emanuel for their mistakes made in insulting disabled people or others. This proves that Media Matters hit men are not sincerely offended by PC blunders; to them, such errors are just political weapons they wield as bludgeons to whack their opponents. If Media Matters were the county sheriff, it would let its relatives rape and get away with murder while imposing draconian penalties on others for jaywalking. Media Matters endlessly complains about the unfairness of Fox News (and they're correct about that, as I proved), yet they are also unfair because double standards are inherently unfair.
What Media Matters is doing is patently obvious: trying to make their political opponents feel as if they are walking on eggshells, making them so afraid of inadvertently making a mistake that they shut up and cede the stage to them and their like-minded zealots, so they win the jihad and can impose their ideas on us all by codifying them into law, which is the ultimate goal of politics: to change laws and regulations to favor your side.
However, I think it would be a mistake to permit the far Left or far Right to win, because even when I agree with their positions, I know neither side has the best solutions. The best solution is one in which the Left can get all or most of what they want while the Right can also get all or most of what they want. This seemingly impossible goal is achievable even for the biggest problem faced by the United States: how to reform entitlements without bankrupting us or cruelly depriving people of benefits they expected. I illustrated this solution in a blog posting explaining a new way to pay taxes: with a smile, and how to slash welfare without hurting anyone.
If you read some of my other postings, such as the one on sponsoring immigration, you'll see that I enjoy giving things to people and otherwise helping them out but in ways that won't penalize others. Thus, my plans should be wildly popular with liberals, conservatives, and everyone in between. I've yet to hear of a better plan to give everyone most of what they want. If you hear of such a plan, tell me and tell others, because the world desperately needs solutions in which both sides can win, and thus neither side loses. Partisans on the Left and partisans on the Right want to win, no matter what that does to their opponents and the people they represent. There was no better solution until I introduced my plan that makes most everyone a winner. Until someone devises a plan better than mine, I think everyone should endorse my proposals so they can get most of what they want, while their opponents can, too. The end result would seem like magic, but the results stem from principles obvious to reasonably intelligent people. Those of lesser intelligence, and those blinded by their political pugnacity, will continue to snipe at the other side.
Humans are always human, therefore never perfect
Because even esteemed liberals and otherwise good people make PC blunders, the standard to which people are held does not adequately account for inevitable human imperfections. I don't think President Obama is a bad person because he insulted disabled people; most likely, he just hasn't spent enough time around them.
I have a mentally challenged relative whose handicaps resulted from a nurse following an idiotic hospital policy that came from administrators who weren't just practicing medicine without a license, but practicing medicine without a brain, common sense, or the slightest shred of concern for patients. In their desire to limit liability, those nitwits recklessly and needlessly endangered babies, thereby violating the first principle of medicine (Primum non nocere, a Latin phrase that means First, do no harm). Some administrators made decisions that junior high school students would instantly recognize as being harebrained, yet those hospital big shots thought they deserved to be paid ten times more than doctors. Patients and politicians often blame doctors for medical mistakes, yet many medical and nursing errors result from administrators who impose foolish rules.
During hospital meetings, I wasn't shy about telling those feeble-minded administrators what I thought of their policies that endangered patients. They didn't listen to me, but the hospital board took note of their idiocy and fired them. Good-bye 7-figure salary; hello unemployment line!
Mentally healthy people are more likely to forgive inevitable human imperfections and mistakes. To appreciate the truth in that statement, you don't need training in psychiatry or psychology, you need only look at the people online who go apeshit (to put it colloquially) in bashing others. These mental cases often go bananas with extreme reactions, sometimes with no provocation.
For example, people asking questions in computer programming forums sometimes get responses like, “Why the f--k do you want to do that, idiot?” even when there are perfectly legitimate reasons for the question. I've found that the least intelligent (not necessarily the least knowledgeable) programmers are the ones most likely to go overboard when someone asks a question showing they are thinking outside-the-box, which is the best way to approach certain problems.
Politically incorrect speech is almost everywhere
I've found politically incorrect speech almost everywhere: from the lips of President Obama, the pages of Time magazine, and countless television programs, including Love's Long Journey, a Christian drama that originally aired on the Hallmark Channel, which used the word “Injun” in referring to Native Americans. Imagine that: a 21st century movie on the Hallmark Channel (!) using an “offensive term for Native Americans.” However, using a politically incorrect word doesn't make that a politically incorrect film because it did a superb job of depicting Native Americans as intelligent, courteous, caring, and civilized people.
How hurtful words can help
Sticks and stones
May break my bones
But words will never hurt me.
The sticks and stones children's rhyme isn't always accurate. Words can indeed hurt—sometimes. I was called “slow” in class by my sixth-grade teacher, which I now realize was perhaps the best thing anyone ever said to me because it catalyzed a burning desire to prove him wrong.
A teacher making that statement today would be reprimanded, but I'd give that teacher a pat on the back and a raise. Modern teachers often boost their student's self-esteem without justification, which fuels the growth of egos housed in people who think they're great even when they are coasting and frittering away their talent instead of getting in gear. I needed more self-esteem in sixth grade, but the way to get it was not from teachers telling me I was something I was not. I needed to get in gear, and I did.
I was also called “retarded” while delivering newspapers during a frigid Sunday morning while I was in college. I couldn't afford a winter coat, so I wore multiple layers of my raggedy clothes and pulled a makeshift sled fashioned from a laundry basket (hey, it worked!) to haul the heavy papers for my brother, a circulation director for the Lansing State Journal, who needed someone to fill a vacancy. The customer who called me “retarded” did so solely on the basis of my appearance; I never spoke to him, although I contemplated telling him I'd earned all A's for the past couple of years in college, studying math, statistics, chemistry, organic chemistry, physics, biology, genetics, and more.
I kindly brought his paper to his door (instead of throwing it, as some people do), yet he felt the need to insult me because I dressed like a hobo. His comment didn't bother me because I knew I wasn't stupid, but what if I were? It likely would have hurt and not triggered the positive change that resulted from my sixth-grade teacher's comment. I was fortunate to serendipitously discover ways to boost brainpower, enabling me to go from dunce to doctor, but most others aren't so lucky. Most “slow” people stay slow, average people stay average, and even most bright people achieve only a small fraction of what they could do if they knew what I discovered about increasing intelligence and creativity.
An example of what results from perennial political correctness
Dana Perino. She's intelligent and educated, but I've never heard her say anything interesting, or something that isn't utterly obvious. She's gorgeous, of course, and her ties to the last Bush administration made some Fox News executive think that would make her palatable, but by bending over backwards to never be offensive, she offends us with her boring, namby-pamby ideas. She is the epitome of PC spinelessness.
Fill the world with people like Dana Perino and it would be so bland and boring that Russian roulette would surge in popularity. The world would also fail miserably. Perino adds nothing to the world except hot air so diluted it's barely warm air. Ditto for the other PC cowards like her.
“I am a person who is fearful of offending people—maybe I shouldn't be, but actually I just kind of am.”
— Dana Perino (I did my best to accurately transcribe the last few words of that quote, but she voiced it so rapidly it was almost unintelligible.)
Intentionally offending people accomplishes nothing, but Perino seems to equate offending people with challenging them and strongly advocating one's views. Fox pays her for her weak-kneed opinions when others could add more to the discussion.
People who do great things usually have some rough edges. Research suggests that testosterone can make people less angelic and more brilliantly productive. I suspect that being battered by life can also help hammer people so they end up doing considerably more than folks who lead relatively cushy lives. Of all the people I've known who had easy lives, not one did anything impressive, no matter how smart they were.
“The great artists of the world are never Puritans, and seldom even ordinarily respectable. No virtuous man—that is, virtuous in the YMCA sense—has ever painted a picture worth looking at, or written a symphony worth hearing, or a book worth reading.”
— H. L. Mencken
(some interesting science suggests why that is true)
“In heaven all the interesting people are missing.”
— Friedrich Nietzsche
“It has been my experience that folks who have no vices have very few virtues.”
— Abraham Lincoln
“To succeed in the world it is not enough to be stupid, you must also be well-mannered.”