By Boris Volkhonsky
It is common knowledge that the US is crazy about political correctness. It is very difficult sometimes to understand new words and, on the other hand, ordinary words are tabooed so fast that this ‘newspeak’ is renovated almost every five years.
Entire dictionaries of politically correct words have already been written. We are not allowed to say ‘crazy’ any more, only ‘mentally ill’. ‘Criminals’ should be called ‘behaviorally challenged’. The word ‘factory’ should be replaced with ‘plant’ because a factory is a place where workers are mercilessly exploited and whose products pollute the environment. It is not allowed to say ‘failure’ but only ‘deferred success’. This list is practically endless.
It is grave misdemeanour to hurt the feelings of race, religious, gender and sexual minorities. For example, ‘history’ should be ‘herstory’ now. The expression ‘white trash’ is allowed about white people but nothing like this can be used about the non-Caucasian race, as it is called in the US. (Incidentally, I used to entertain my American friends by explaining that in Russian the word ‘Caucasian’ is a synonym of the politically incorrect word ‘black’).
All this reminds me of an old children’s joke in which a small boy is surprised by an adults’ taboo: ‘How come that I have a bottom but no word for it?’
It seems that the New York Education Department has decided to outdo all its predecessors. The other day, it proposed to ban 50 words that are in general use from standard school tests. They are not abusive or insulting words, they are just somehow associated with war, religion, wealth and poverty, the evolution theory, divorce, terrorism and slavery.
One should not say ‘divorce’ because this word can hurt the feelings of a child whose parents are divorced. One should not say ‘birthday’ because Jehovah’s Witnesses do not celebrate birthdays. One should not say ‘poverty’ and mention houses with swimming-pools because this could sadden poorer students who do not have a swimming-pool at home. One should not mention ‘junk food’ so as not to provoke children to eat it. At the same time, it is not explained what is meant by ‘junk food’ – only hamburgers and chips or everything that children enjoy eating instead of healthy vegetables and cereal sprouts. One should not say ‘dinosaur’ and ‘evolution’ because not everyone believes in Darwin’s evolution theory. (Incidentally, I do not believe in it either but I have nothing against those lovely animals). Finally, it is not allowed to say ‘dance’ because this word is extremely indecent and associated with sex.
All this proves that, indeed, there is a bottom but no word for it.
New York officials are not the only ones who bow and scrape before all kinds of minorities. A few days ago, I wrote about a group of agnostics and atheists who call themselves a Religion-Free Foundation. They sued the Pennsylvania authorities for announcing 2012 the Bible Year. Agnostics, by the way, write the word Bible with the small ‘b’. There is every chance that the court would take their side.
It seems that these people, like all liberals, understand the First Amendment to the US Constitution in a peculiar way, seeing only those paragraphs that answer their purposes. As a result, this loud-mouthed minority is gradually seizing the right to influence people and dictate to them how they should behave, what books they should read and what words they should use.
Recall that recently all the US liberal public was up in arms against TV and radio commentator Rush Limbaugh who used the word ‘slut’ about a student of the Law Department of Georgetown University because she insisted on expanding women’s rights in birth control (meaning women’s rights to kill their unborn babies). The storm of criticism was so strong that some advertisers even said that they would stop sponsoring Rush Limbaugh’s show. However, later the storm subsided and advertisements started to return to Rush Limbaugh.
Hopefully, the laughter caused by the initiative of the New York Education Department will also make them go back on their word this time.
There is another danger, though: the germ of political correctness is growing to the scale of epidemics and some other people could decide to imitate the New York officials.