Freedom of speech has never failed to be a source of controversy. Arguably one of the best gifts granted to us, the emotional destruction that comes with free speech is alarming. Not only is respect forgotten, but ignorance combined with the freedom to say whatever one wants fuels a misunderstanding of the expectation to be somewhat politically correct. It is important to keep in mind that everyone is a human, so there is an obligation to treat them justly, but at the same time what is considered offensive has recently become a little ridiculous.
The phrase “political correctness” is one of those ideas that can mean whatever one chooses. Some people think of it as the requirement to bottle up opinions and live in denial of what they actually think; others see it as more of a social expectation.
Political correctness is just a way of saying that despite what one’s personal opinion might be on a specific subject, our generation demands respect to be given to any group of people who have done nothing to be treated any differently. That being said, as with many things, social media has in several instances exaggerated this and caused people to jump on the bandwagon and read too far into things that were never intended to be disrespectful.
In 2007 in Sydney, Australia it was deemed derogatory to women and frightening to children to mimic Santa’s laugh and say “Ho Ho Ho” because it was similar to the slang word for prostitute. I highly doubt that the creator of Santa’s laugh was actually trying to leave an underlying message about an Australian prostitute.
Oversensitivity seems to be an increasing problem. It has become almost trendy to be very self righteous about issues of little importance, and read way too far into things. Many see it as moving forward and being liberal to be overly concerned, but really it just creates overblown drama.
The interesting thing about our world is that there are so many people who rest on both extremes of acting on political correctness. In our country alone, you could find people who are so racist and derogatory towards women, gays and any other group you could think of; these people are so far from politically and socially correct. Then, there are also people who get Cookie Monster taken off of Sesame Street because he encourages child obesity.
As can be expected with our generation, access to social media has heightened the desire to move both towards extreme political correctness, and towards publishing thoughts that are extreme in the opposite way. Freedom of speech has always been one of those things that can be very bad when abused, and access to direct publication like Twitter or Facebook does not help that.
The fine line comes with the difference between taking something out of context and creating controversy over it. With the Santa thing, and the moms getting rid of a childhood icon like Cookie Monster, political correctness is taken too far. Let’s be honest, who really cares? On the other hand, fifty years after the end of the civil rights movement it is expected that people would be courteous to people of color, but that is far from what happens.
Of course, there is a happy medium. Forcing people to walk on eggshells in fear of saying anything that could possibly be taken out context isn’t a good way to live, but neither is deciding that freedom of speech puts any individual on a pedestal above anyone else.
Since there are so many discrepancies, it is hard to group everyone and say that society should be more or less politically correct. I would say that in order to fit my definition of politically correct, anyone speaking negatively out of ignorance should, as cliché as it is, put themselves in the shoes of whoever they are bashing.
Likewise, people who run to Twitter dissecting everything that was intended to be harmless could take a look at the world and realize that treating everything so seriously is creating a world that none of us want to be a part of. Being politically correct means treating people and situations in a way that will progress our society, not hurt it.