Living in a country formerly occupied by the Soviets, I still hear the stories about how there was no God back then, there was no right to private property, there was no right to decide your ideology or beliefs, and, if you felt any different concerning any of the diktats of the regime, then you would be risking your life and that of your family. In fact, the system was supposed to be your God, your master, everything you ever needed to be “happy” in life.
By Georgiana Constantin l December 2, 2014
Despite the fact that it is considered an exemplar of democracy throughout the world, the United States is dealing with many issues which seem to increasingly restrict its citizens’ freedoms. One of these is free speech. Can the U.S., a country in the throes of extreme political correctness, still think of itself as a bastion of free speech protected under the First Amendment to the Constitution, or is it now only allowed to listen to a few biased opinions of people who fit into the mold of what a 21st century citizen should be like?
Cheryl Conner writing for Forbes describes conditions as “epidemic,” where “seemingly innocuous statements executives make on stage or in social media get blown to the sky by outraged listeners, and press and reputation nightmares are born.”
But it’s not just executives or professionals. At a glance, one can see the dire effects of political correctness across the spectrum. Conner says, “Sports teams are being renamed to avoid offending Native American tribes. A U.S. university has reclassified its freshman class as ‘first-year students’ to avoid any possibilities of affiliation with gender. Some schools are referring to Easter Eggs as ‘Springtime spheres’ and are eliminating Halloween altogether for fear of the possible suggestion of underlying religious themes.”
And yet, “If we can’t talk about differences that puzzle us, or things we’re curious about, without fear of giving offense, then how can we ever overcome our ignorance about cultures and races – or even the opposite sex?” she asks.
The so called “right to be offended” is being taken advantage of by more and more people and, while the phenomenon seems to be spiraling out of control, it would appear that society simply doesn’t know how to deal with it.
Anyone can “feel offended” with respect to anything. There is no limit as to what can be considered offensive anymore. For some, even evoking a “Merry Christmas” greeting has become as controversial as using any racial slur or religious persecution method.
America seems to be leading the charge when it comes to these overly sensitive attitudes and the rest of the world is, as always, following like lemmings off a cliff.
One unfortunate example of the fear which political correctness has struck into the hearts of people comes from Rotherham, England, where “children of all ages have been systematically exploited by men of Asian descent in the South Yorkshire town of Rotherham, England, over a period of sixteen years.” Here, approximately 1400 were sexually abused and, for fear of being labeled “racist” the police did not speak out nor did they allow for the men to be identified according to the geographical racial origin they belonged to for the same reasons.
Another recent controversy, this time in America, involves clergy being subpoenaed because of the content of their sermons. Houston Mayor Annise Parker, the one around whom the scandal revolved reportedly said, “If the 5 pastors used pulpits for politics, their sermons are fair game.” The actions of the Houston mayor in general and her comment in particular prompted an outcry and sparked numerous comments such as, “The separation of church and state means nothing if not that city government officials cant subpoena church sermons.”
There are numerous examples of how unbelievably distorted the idea of political correctness has become. While it may have started out with the best of intentions, it has in the meantime become an idea that takes one back to the days in which no one could say anything against the “Fuhrer” or against the established regime of the Soviet bloc.
Living in a country formerly occupied by the Soviets, I still hear the stories about how there was no God back then, there was no right to private property, there was no right to decide your ideology or beliefs, and, if you felt any different concerning any of the diktats of the regime, then you would be risking your life and that of your family. In fact, the system was supposed to be your God, your master, everything you ever needed to be “happy” in life. And if anyone felt any different, they would eventually be convinced of this “ultimate truth” or indeed be silenced by the self-bestowed right of “jus vitae necisque,” from which the “father” system benefited.
While the situation in the United States has not yet degenerated into such horrific circumstances, the premises for such an appalling future, if one takes the time to notice them, are in fact obvious. Children are not allowed to wear shirts depicting the American flag on Cinco de Mayo for fear that they may offend Mexican minorities celebrating the holiday, transgender boys are to be allowed in girl’s bathrooms in schools, Santa Claus can’t say “HO HO HO” anymore because it sounds too much like the American slang for “prostitute.”
All of these artificial tensions are also spilling over into Europe, as the recent protests in Amsterdam have shown, where 60 people were arrested during an “anti–racist demonstration” against Black Pete, Dutch Saint Nicholas’ black sidekick.
If one is to be completely honest with themselves all of these pseudo-conflicts are doing nothing if not stirring up more tensions between people, hence dividing them more than before. Traditions are disappearing, common sense is being done away with, healthy expressions of feelings are being looked upon as perverse.
While the battle for the rights of the “offended” is taking place, it would seem that not all of the above mentioned “offensive” categories are included in this “political protection of sensitivities.” When it comes to the “Christian category,” not a lot of staunch defenders seem to show up. Some might describe this religion as mental illness, others might persecute its believers, more still think of Christians as the designated “bad guys,” since it’s always this religion that must accommodate others by censuring itself.
Piss Christ, a photograph showing Christ on the Cross, submerged in the photographer’s urine, has long been a controversial so called “work of art.” It has its defenders and it has those who are against it. The author gets artistic credit for it.
On the other hand, the Muhammad cartoon controversy turned violent and eventually deadly, when people of the Muslim faith protested and eventually killed because of cartoons depicting the prophet Muhammad, which in Islam is considered blasphemous.
The cartoons scandal was so powerful that Yale University published a study on the incidents without publishing the actual images, for fear that they would endanger their staff.
Newspapers were closed, editors fired or arrested when some of the images were reprinted and the Muslim community eventually received an apology for any offence incurred.
Piss Christ is still “a work of art.”
When dealing with some religions, people are careful and try not to offend. When dealing with Christianity, however, people do the exact opposite.
Freedom of speech is important, if the term “freedom” is to keep its initial meaning of liberty and not morph into something similar to the favorite communist prefix of “the people’s,” which proved to be anything but “the people’s” in the end, since everything belonged to the party and the party did not share.
However, if the meaning of this very important term is to endure, it must also not mean: the freedom of some,” for, ultimately, this will lead to it meaning “the persecution of others.”
Georgiana Constantin is a law school graduate who has studied International, European and Romanian law at the Romanian-American University in Bucharest and received her Masters from the Nicolae Titulescu University in Bucharest. Ms. Constantin, who is based in Romania, is also a contributor to SFPPR News & Analysis.