We’ve all heard a lot of the dispute over whether or not “political correctness” was a good thing. Sometimes, I wonder why that’s even questioned. I seem to remember a poster that said, “Everything I really needed to know I learned in kindergarten.” Sure, that’s a little bit of a simplistic way of putting it, but the point was valid. I think it’s especially important to remember the old report card category: “Plays well with others.”
But do we play nicely with others? Maybe that’s what “political correctness” really is at the core. We can look at life through a binary code-type lens where everything is either black or white. However, as we learned in the wonderful film “Pleasantville,” things aren’t always quite that simple.
The generation of my grandparents is indeed what we call the “Greatest Generation.” It was a generation marred by warfare and to date, the only combat use of nuclear weapons in world history. Quite simply, they had no other choice. The mentality of the day was to use carpet bombings to level entire sections of cities to break the enemy into submission. It was a common tactic that was clearly an eye-for-an-eye in the deadliest manner imaginable. Germany bombed England to rubble. The Allies bombed Germany to rubble. And America bombed Tokyo to rubble.
It was horrific in any sense. No, no one cared about whether or not some obscure country “liked it or not.” We had two ways of entering enemy land: By land or air. And both required catastrophic destruction. It was a no-win situation.
And when America finally made the doomsday decision to use atomic warfare, it was for one purpose: To end the war outright. It was to save millions of lives by killing thousands. In the end, it was cold, dead numbers. Japan had no choice but to surrender. Germany soon followed suit.
So why do we care what people think of us today? Why don’t we just “bomb the shit out of the Arabs” as some say or “just bomb the ragheads to glass” as others suggest? Quite simply, we have something that our 1940’s counterparts did not: almost 70 years worth of technological advancement that provided different options.
Instead of wiping out whole city blocks, we can pinpoint a target within a few feet. Of course, our intelligence is a little shaky sometimes, but the point is that we have those options. We have a choice to use them or to not use them. It’s not about political correctness, it’s about the right thing to do. We have no need to kill innocents if at all possible.
What’s more, the irrational furor over the “scandal” of whether or not someone can say “Merry Christmas” is as absurd as it is petty. Since most major retailers understand that they will have a diverse customer base, it’s only natural to be considerate of all options. We can all “play well with others” in a very real sense by showing that we are indeed respectful of those who happen to have different ideas.
Paul wrote to the Colossians that we should not judge over various holiday celebrations or whether or not we keep the feasts. I think this is essentially the same thing here. Sure, most of us who are Christian will celebrate the incarnate Christ through the holiday we know as Christmas. But not everyone does. Who are we to criticize others?
Sadly, this is the same thing that has happened throughout history. In 300 years, Christianity went from being the oppressed to the oppressor. This happened in the first millennium, and it’s happening now. In the days of the early church, the disciples (or anyone who claimed faith in Christ) were killed or at risk of being killed just for their faith. Within 300 years, “Christians” were conquering under the banner of the Cross.
In the 17th century, people were leaving the tyranny of religious oppression to seek liberty. Now, we’re being told that everyone must adhere to our brand of faith and holidays. What you call “political correctness,” I call the voice of God. “Love one another,” Jesus said. “Submit to one another,” Paul said.
The United States was founded on these principles. Religious liberty is such a critical core of our nation’s history that it was the first amendment to be ratified to the less than fifteen-year-old constitution.
We’ve struggled with our identity ever since. We’ve had brilliant successes (The emancipation proclamation and the New Deal which brought us out of the depression of the 1930s) and abject failures like the Civil War and the utter darkness of the McCarthy era. However, we still don’t know how to “play well with others.” Today’s furious nationalistic attitude toward outsiders and immigrants only illustrates this.
So should we worry about how people feel? Of course. We should always worry about our image because quite frankly, we know better.