Monday, January 02, 2006

Have you noticed? Un-PC is the new black. I had dinner last week with a friend of mine who’s a member of a popular comedy troupe* in town, known for their bawdy humor, outrageous musical numbers and cross-dressing. He assured me that their new show was set to be their most “un-PC” yet. Which reminded me of movie critic A.O. Scott’s review of Sarah Silverman’s supposedly very un-PC concert movie, “Jesus is Magic”: “mocking political correctness has become a form of political correctness in its own right.” Interestingly, it’s not the whiners on the right (the ones constantly assailing the whiners on the left for their Politically Correct excesses) but the lefties themselves—who supposedly invented PC—who are eager to subvert it. So it seems “un-PC” is indeed the new PC.

But should it surprise anyone that blacks, Jews, gays, immigrants, and uppity women (or any combination thereof)—the supposedly PC crowd, in other words—provide us with our most cutting-edge, taboo-busting, un-PC entertainment? Not really. PC has less to do with political preference, per se, than with an orientation towards ideological orthodoxy. And most Americans, accustomed to the dynamism of democracy, bristle at orthodoxy’s chilling effect. But if you stick to The Script, PC is part of a vast, insidiously encroaching, liberal conspiracy. In the script, "PC" is the McCarthyism of the left, even though it has no Joseph McCarthy and no House Committee on Un-American Activities. I know: pesky details.

Truth is, PC is nowadays largely a bugaboo of the right, whose obsession with it long ago eclipsed the loony left’s actual political correctness. The Great Christmas Tree Controversy of 2005 was only the latest battle in the mostly imaginary PC wars, and showed how strained the efforts to keep ‘em raging have gotten. I mean, what if you threw a Culture War and no one came? Harping on the excesses of Political Correctness, real or imagined, does have its purposes, though. It’s a way of framing issues, first of all. But mostly it’s a way to rail against diversity, affirmative action, sexual harassment suits, gay marriage, even handicap parking, without having to own up to outright bigotry. It’s the triumph of I’m-rubber-you’re-gluism in American politics.

One of the peculiar strengths of our nation, its dynamic culture, and its form of government is that it gives a voice to those who are outnumbered. I would say “minorities,” but consulting a definitive lexicon of PC terms, I see this means “any PC group that can claim it is oppressed,” where “oppression” is PC code for “the state of holding PC status while not receiving enough special benefits and attention.” That’s according to the proudly un-PC authors, who clearly believe that their opponents’ perceived political correctness conveniently discredits all of the latter’s political claims. Now, you may think me PC, but I’m happy to call a spade a spade: scratch the surface of someone obsessed with the vast PC conspiracy and I guarantee you’ll find an old-school bigot.

*the troupe is called Fresh Fruit. They can be found on the web here.


Blogger mmennonno said...

The following ltte appeared in Metro this morning:

Anti-Catholicism a rampant prejudice


"Mike Mennonno closed his most recent 'My View' column by saying 'Scratch the surface of someone obsessed with the vast PC conspiracy and I guarantee you’ll find an old-school bigot.' Well, I take great pride in being concerned both about liberal pretensions to dictate all values in society (political correctness) and about bigotry! I am a Catholic, and I know anti-Catholicism is the last acceptable prejudice in the U.S. because it defies the liberal agenda, particularly on the hot-button issue of sexuality. (We as a denomination are concerned about promiscuity, divorce, birth control, abortion and homosexuality.)

"Yet our right to hold these opinions is denigrated, and we are portrayed as hopeless holdouts from the past. I would like to see, in 2006, tolerance toward the Catholic tradition by those who claim to be tolerant — and just happen to believe this means intolerant of traditional religion."

My response:

First off, David, I'd like to correct a couple of your assumptions. People read a lot into my op-eds, based on their own specious assumptions of what’s implied. I never claimed to be tolerant. So any implication that my intolerance for bigots and assholes is a sign of hypocrisy is lost on me. This is, like I said, the old I’m-rubber-your-glue strategy we all learned in the second grade. “If you guys preaching tolerance are so tolerant,” says the bigot, “how come you can’t tolerate assholes like me? That means you’re not really tolerant, doesn’t it?” Well, my answer to that is: no one’s perfect. Now, go fuck yourself.

And that’s really the fundamental difference between you and me, David. I’m just saying my piece, and you can take it or leave it. No one is “dictating all values in society” and forcing you to be promiscuous, use birth control (I wish you would, though), get divorced, get an abortion, or be homosexual. No one is making you do anything. That’s really the difference between us. You would use the force of law to compel others to do as you say (and not as you do, most likely). I would not. That’s what I guess I mean by tolerance. No individual is truly tolerant, is he? That’s really the core challenge of Christianity, in fact. But the state must be. I would rather have a secular than a sectarian state. That’s really what I’m talking about.

I’d rather allow people to make their own choices, even if those choices are not the ones I might make. None of your so-called “hot-button issues” is anything that would have any concrete consequences for you, personally. That’s the telling thing. All of these things are about what you perceive as other people’s flaws: you’re concerned with other people’s promiscuity, other people’s marriages, other people’s choices in birth control, and other people’s sexuality. And chances are, you perceive the “offending parties” not as individuals, but as a cabal, a cohesive group of evil-doers with an insidious agenda. That’s how your garden variety armchair bigot thinks.

If you’re such a hotshot Christian, go out into the community and work with crack mothers, kids with AIDS, and so on, and quit bitching about how other people don’t do what you want them to do.

Another thing: I’m a little sick and tired of Christians, who are the overwhelming majority in this country, whining about how they’re being victimized by various minorities. Just live your creed, and your life and motives will be unimpeachable. But it’s not about that, is it? Fact is, your persecution complex is the perfect and necessary complement to your paranoia about the evil cabal of liberal Jewish intellectual homosexual abortionists who are terrorizing you.

I am always skeptical of nonsensical terms like “traditional religion,” too. It’s like “traditional marriage” or “traditional values”. They’re catch-phrases that you use to convey your political allegiances, but they are hollow of meaning. Tell me exactly what “traditional” means to you and then we can talk.

My sense of it is, “traditional” is likely meant to convey “the way things have always been.” It’s supposed to place the weight of history behind your bigotry. But there is no such thing as “traditional”: religion, marriage or values. These institutions are utterly plastic. You may not like that, but that doesn’t change the fact that it’s true. They have been tinkered with, altered, and negotiated throughout the ages. The idea is that there were millennia of civilization where nothing changed, but all the sudden, the liberals come along and want to change everything. And if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it, right? This is the childlike mentality of creationists, too. It’s tiresome. You can’t argue with ignorance.

What you are talking about here, David, is a political agenda, not a religious one. The best Catholics I have known are not concerned with sociological or psychological abstractions. They *know* people—actual people—who might happen to have had an abortion, might be battling an addiction of some sort, or might be homosexual, but they do not let these things blind them to the other’s humanity. A bigot is someone who will not allow himself to see that humanity in others who are different. He uses dogma as a shield against the other. He has not learned empathy, and empathy is the core of Christ’s message.

My point in this piece was that the PC/anti-PC debate is the province of dogmatists on both sides of the political spectrum, and that most of us have the good sense to live our lives in real-time, not on the abstract plain of ideology. That’s where, on both sides, the bigots reside.


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