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Jewish World Review
February 12, 2010
/ 28 Shvat 5770
Good Words Bad Words
Progressive speech correctness is one of those seemingly little annoyances that get under my skin. I call it a "seemingly" little annoyance because although it might appear to be a minor thing, it isn't. It is yet another example of endemic political correctness pushed into society by liberals for the purpose of distortion and confusion. Words have meaning, if those words are changed then you've altered their true meaning and made them something other then what they truly mean. Confused? Yep, that's the whole idea behind "speech correctness."
The "progressive community" ordains that certain words that once were absolutely fine and acceptable will no longer be appropriate for everyday use. Certain words suddenly become "bad words." And if you happen to use those words, well, that only means that you are either a racist, or a homophobe, or some other insensitive boorish lout. Liberals get a real kick out of "catching" a conservative using the old words or terms instead of using the newest progressive label. That's why it always makes me smile when I hear of a liberal falling into the word trap themselves.
The recent politically incorrect word gaffes made by Obama's chief of staff and democrat senator Harry Reid are two cases in point. Rahm Emanuel used the word "retarded" to describe ultra-liberals who were criticizing more centrist Democrats. Of course the word police jumped on him right away (although he wasn't beat up over it nearly as much as a Republican would have been) and Emanuel was forced to issue a public apology. Can sensitivity training be far behind?
Earlier, at the end of last year, the president gave Sen. Harry Reid a pass for his offensive racial comments. He used the word "Nergo." Harry Reid's comments that Mr. Obama would make a fine nominee because he was "light-skinned" and "does not speak with a Negro dialect" were patently offensive.
Again, if a conservative Republican senator had made those remarks he would have been forced to step down immediately, and maybe tarred and feathered and run out of town on a rail. But Obamba gave complete absolution to Harry Reid, a liberal Democrat, because they share the same political views and goals. Two different rules at work: one for people on "their side" the other for everyone else.
The media and other progressive groups got hung up over those two no-no words and missed the meaning of what was really said by these two men. While it is true that the words "retarded" and "Negro" have been deemed inappropriate for use in the 21st Century by the word police, by focusing on the words we miss the meaning of the total statements. I will explain.
Let us say that Rahm Emanuel had said the exact same thing, but had chosen a more politically correct term like "mentally challenged" to describe the far-left faction of his party. Using "mentally challenged" to insult someone because of their political belief is just as insensitive as using "retarded." No difference. Using the right word doesn't mitigate the nasty meaning behind his basic thought.
The same goes for Harry Reid's comment. Before the presidential election Reid had said privately that Obama, as a black candidate, could be successful thanks, in part, to his "light-skinned" appearance and speaking patterns "with no Negro dialect, unless he wanted to have one." Reid felt in fact, that Obama's race would help him more than hurt him in a bid for the Democratic nomination. "I sincerely apologize for offending any and all Americans, especially African Americans for my improper comments," he said after the story came out.
What if Reid made the very same statement but instead of using "Negro" he used "African-American?" Would that have make the statement any different or less offensive? Of course not. It doesn't change Reid's belief that the country was ready to elect a black man who spoke without a black cadence and had a light-skinned appearance.
Personally I see nothing wrong with the word Negro, any more than I see anything wrong with the word Caucasian. They are descriptive words for two races. If the word Negro is used properly and respectfully it shouldn't be taken as an insult or derogatory epithet. It is a harmless word of Latin origin meaning "black." That's all it is.
Likewise I see nothing wrong with the word "retarded" when used correctly as a description of a human condition. To retard means to hold back in terms of development. According to the Oxford English Dictionary, it literally means "less advanced in mental, physical, or social development than is usual for one's age." A perfectly good word, but not the way Emanuel used it. He used it to insult and belittle.
We need to keep our language clear and understandable. As a civilized society we should use words properly and certainly avoid nasty slurs and hurtful name calling, but changing harmless words for the sake of stupid political correctness is silly and dangerous. If you want to know what the really bad words are, just turn on the TV any time of day or night.
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JWR contributor Greg Crosby, former creative head for Walt Disney publications, has written thousands of comics, hundreds of children's books, dozens of essays, and a letter to his congressman. A freelance writer in Southern California, you may contact him by clicking here.
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