On Being Politically Correct

It is now far more PC to announce you're politically incorrect.  Political correctness has become a pejorative, a way to dismiss the sensitivities of others.  The name is rather unfortunate:  politically correct seems to imply that there's only one way to think.  Of course, that's not what it means.  What it has meant since its proliferation by 1970s liberals is something not so unfamiliar.

It is politically correct to call minority groups what they prefer to be called.  It is not PC to use terms they find offensive.  Of course, the favored terms change with the times and those of us sensitive to the concerns of minorities try to keep up (though often don't quite).  Regardless of who you're discussing, each group deserves a generous helping of compassion and understanding.  I've worked with teens most of my life so let's look at some of the terms used to describe them:  teenagers, hoodlums, young adults, children, delinquents, druggies, irresponsible, selfish...the list is endless.  What's so cool or original about using words that offend them? 

In the days before political correctness, we had a concept called manners.  Our mothers told us "if you don't have something nice to say, don't say anything at all."  It was bad manners to make fun of disabled people, old people, women (ladies then), ethnic minorities or anyone else.  Emily Post and Dear Abby were the authorities in my childhood.  But roll the clock back even further to George Washington, who wrote a piece entitled Rules of Civility & Decent Behaviour In Company and Conversation.  His list began as follows:

1st Every action done in Company, ought to be with Some Sign of Respect, to those that are Present.
2d When in Company, put not your Hands to any Part of the Body, not usually Discovered.
3d Shew Nothing to your Freind that may affright him.
4th In the Presence of Others Sing not to yourself with a humming Noise, nor Drum with your Fingers or Feet.
Wait just a minute.  What's that first one again?  Isn't that in fact what political correctness means?  Let's dump the term PC since it's fallen into disfavor (like 'ladies', 'mentally retarded' and 'negro').  Let's call it manners again.  And when politicians, TV pundits or personalities like Rush Limbaugh are ill mannered, I say call them on it.  Rudeness is not a political position.

And if the words of George Washington don't impress the ill mannered, perhaps something older?

"Love your neighbor as yourself." (Judaism and Christianity)
“The most righteous person is the one who consents for other people what he consents for himself, and who dislikes for them what he dislikes for himself.” (Islam)
"Hurt not others in ways that you yourself would find hurtful." (Buddhism)
"Choose thou for thy neighbour that which thou choosest for thyself." (Bahai)
"Never impose on others what you would not choose for yourself." (Confucianism)
"One should never do that to another which one regards as injurious to one’s own self." (Hinduism)
It's not cool to be rude.  So stop bragging about being politically incorrect.  Mind your manners.  Mind our founding father.  Mind the Golden Rule.