I recently joined a Facebook group made up of church people – and felt like I’d entered the Twilight Zone. Several conversation threads consisted of little more than name-calling and expletives not deleted. “You are the anti-Christ” and “shut your f–ing mouth” were just two of the lovely sentiments expressed by these self-professed Christians, some of them clergy.
When I responded to one of the nastier threads with the observation that we could all use a bit more civility, I was met with the kind of hostility one might expect if I’d suggested we all start cooking and eating puppies.
As a Christian myself, I wish I were making this up.
Implore people to stop the mean-spirited political rhetoric fracturing our society, and culture warriors of all stripes – even some church people, it seems – will shame us for daring to ask for courtesy:
“This political correctness is getting out of hand,” conservatives complain.
“Enough with the tone policing,” liberals lecture.
“Censorship!” everyone cries.
I understand political correctness, tone policing and censorship exist. But both liberals and conservatives have hopelessly twisted these concepts.
Left-of-center activists first used the term politically correct to satirize their tendency to adopt uniform opinions and causes, thus poking fun at their own rigid insistence on ideological purity. Alas, in recent years, some conservatives have hijacked this term and hurl it indiscriminately at anyone who suggests that common decency and respect for others are still virtues worth cultivating.
I’ve been told I overdosed on political correctness when I forgot to laugh at a patently offensive joke or sought to debunk a stereotype. The accusations go something like this:
Excu-u-u-u-se me if someone thought that joke was offensive. I guess nobody could accuse me of being politically correct.
Well excu-u-u-u-se me, but calling a woman a fat broad isn’t politically incorrect. It’s just plain rude.
We can’t open our mouths anymore without some member of the politically correct thought police yelling, “Racist! Sexist! Homophobic!” People are so oversensitive these days.
Hmmm. If it walks like a duck and quacks like a duck, guess what it is? I’m not saying oversensitive people don’t exist. However, most people I know would prefer that ethnic slurs not become socially acceptable again.
But conservatives aren’t the only folks good at doing The Twist. Liberals do a pretty good dance too.
Wikipedia defines tone policing as an attempt to detract from the validity of a statement by attacking the way it’s presented rather than the message itself. One example is to tell people they’re being “divisive” for merely raising issues such as discrimination in the workplace. But lately, the term gets thrown at us like a hand grenade by some liberals who feel oppressed if we fail to listen while they scream profanities at us.
A Tumblr post circulating among several progressive groups illustrates this trend:
… Hearing ‘I hate men’ shouldn’t make men stop being feminist. Hearing ‘f– white people’ shouldn’t make white people stop opposing racism. Your opposition to oppression should be moral and immovable. Your belief that all humans should be treated with equal respect shouldn’t be conditional based on whether or not individual people are nice to you.
Okay, let’s unpack this statement, a variation of which has been shouted repeatedly at people on the above-mentioned church page. I wholeheartedly agree that we should treat all human beings with equal respect, whether or not every individual in a particular group acts like a nice person. And I’m not going to stop opposing racism because one person says something hateful about white people. But if someone drops the F bomb on me, I will tell them I find this behavior abusive, regardless of their race or mine.
Here’s another example, making the rounds on Facebook:
If you use that “background color” shit, STOP! It blocks EVERYONE who relies on screen readers and/or text-to-speech programs from accessing your posts! These programs, for some reason, CANNOT read the text in those backgrounds and thus your blind/low-vision friends CANNOT find out what you have to say! This is an official “yelling at your friends to not be assholes” post.
Whoa! If someone out there really does lie awake nights thinking up ways to oppress blind people, I seriously don’t want to know them. But I’m pretty sure most people who use the background color feature on Facebook don’t even know this poses a problem, and there are far less abrasive ways to spread the news.
Regarding censorship, some people – conservatives and liberals alike – simply do not tolerate disagreement well, and will consider any overt expression of opposing views to be a violation of their free-speech rights. I’ve heard variations of the following more times than I can count:
It’s my First Amendment right to state my honest opinion of (Dumbocrats, Rethuglicans, fill in the blank). My freedom of speech trumps your hurt feelings.
These people seem to forget the same First Amendment protects our own right to say, “I don’t agree with you” or “I find your language offensive.” While the Constitution does indeed guarantee one’s right to say whatever one wants, it doesn’t force the rest of us to listen. And dissent in and of itself does not constitute censorship.
Note to conservatives: Racism is not “politically incorrect.” It’s immoral. Liberals: Refusing to listen while someone calls us names is not “tone-policing.” It’s setting a healthy boundary. Everyone: Deleting rants full of ad hominem attacks from the comments section after our blog posts is not censorship. It’s exercising our right to set standards for our own publications.
To anyone who thinks their passionate beliefs entitle them to spew hostility, here’s the deal: If you want me to listen to you, please remove your middle finger from under my nose. Then state your concern minus the name-calling and profanity. My attention span will improve dramatically.
Especially if I’m on a church site.