Today, even the phrase “happy holidays” is sure to offend at least a small handful of people. Am I going to need to start researching people’s religious backgrounds in advance before talking to them between early November and late December? And what do I do if I meet a stranger? Say “I wish you a happy season doing whatever it is that you normally do”?? That doesn’t roll off the tongue very well.
I will clarify here that I was raised in a Christian environment. I heart Jesus Christ, Christmas, the pretty trees & lights, Santa Claus, singing “Jingle Bells”, and so on. To all you atheists and non-Christians: I see you. I respect you. Please don’t hate me or think less of me for this admission.
With such a diverse, tumultuous culture in the United States, people sometimes have the strongest opinions about the most unexpected things. Take Starbucks’ holiday cups, for example. Last year, the coffee goliath upset a number of its Christian customers by releasing plain red coffee cups instead of its usual Christmas-themed coffee cups. Those same customers were upset by this year’s release of limited edition, plain green coffee cups that the company claimed were meant to be a symbol of unity. These cup critics maintain that Starbucks has declared a “War on Christmas”. Sigh.
The topic of political correctness has become a cultural sensation in recent years, shaping public speech from comedic legend Jerry Seinfeld to president-elect Donald Trump. The way I understand it, political correctness has become collectively defined as a manner of expression that aims not to offend any one group of people. EDIT: I just patted my own back because Google’s definition is not too far off from this.
Is there anything wrong with political correctness or political incorrectness? If you ask me (and yes, you are asking me by spending your time reading this article, smarty pants), there is a correct time and place for each manner of expression. Martin Luther King Jr. was as eloquent and diplomatic as any man can be, while Malcom X knocked you the fuck out with his words. While Martin Luther King Jr. may have been the single most important figure of the Civil Rights Movement of the 60s, it can’t be argued that Malcom X was not important as well.
Political correctness is the manner of expression to use in the context of such areas as professionalism, diplomacy, and friendship. It’s a bad idea to tell your boss that your pay is shit and you deserve better, because that relationship probably won’t last long. Believe me, I’ve tried this before. It doesn’t work most of the time. Representing the most positive version of yourself is important in many facets of life, as it can be a deciding factor in critical circumstances.
Political incorrectness is the manner of expression to use when you really want to show your unadulterated passion. It can demonstrate how serious you are or how deeply you care about something. However, it can also make you look like an immature, grumpy baby. Today’s champions of “telling it like it is” often are immature, grumpy babies living in adult bodies, and their incessant use of politically incorrect expression announces to the world the kind of underdeveloped person that they truly are.
So when is the right time to care about offending someone, and when is the right time to throw caution to the wind? It depends on your intentions. If your intention is to achieve some goal that will better humanity, and you honestly believe that, then use what you feel is the best method of expression to attain that goal. Political incorrectness can be a morally valid option if it is a realistic means to achieving some greater goal. If I’m a superintendent of a public school district, and I tell Principal Incompetent at one of my amply funded, yet under-performing schools that his shit sucks, I am doing so as a realistic means of improving the academics at that school. Forget his personal feelings, the children need help and our tax dollars need to be spent effectively!
On the other hand, if your intentions are strictly malicious and your ultimate goal is to hurt a specific person or group of people, then don’t use politically incorrect expression. Also, please do everyone a favor and go back to elementary school. Then, after about 12 years, read up on and fully understand the insanely long history of The Golden Rule on Wikipedia.
Circling back to the holiday season, I’ve found that the best way to function during this time is to be respectful of all walks of life and not worry too much about those who aren’t willing to meet me in the middle. Those that take offense to someone that clearly means to wish them well have other, unrelated issues that need to be addressed.
Happy Holidays, people of Earth.
- Shen, Lucinda. “Starbucks Is Bringing Back The Holiday Cup That Got It in Trouble Last Year.” Fortune.com. Fortune, 03 Nov. 2016. Web. 09 Dec. 2016.
- Kell, John. “Why Starbucks’ ‘Symbol of Unity’ Holiday Cup Got the Internet Mad.” Fortune.com. Fortune, 01 Dec. 2016. Web. 09 Dec. 2016.
- Unknown. “Google.” Google.com. Google Inc., n.d. Web. 09 Dec. 2016.
- Multiple Contributors. “Golden Rule.” Wikipedia. Wikimedia Foundation, n.d. Web. 09 Dec. 2016.