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Here Come the Language Police

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The Language Police do not yet have a sheriff or even a spokesperson, nor do they have a clear ideological perspective, since left-wing and right-wing groups are both attempting to stifle the study and expression of views. To achieve those aims, the purging of vocabulary needs to continue unquestioned.

Indeed, the American Left seems to be most vociferous in attacking our vocabulary, marginalizing many "stereotypical words and phrases" that it has deemed offensive or hostile.

Seemingly harmless words and phrases now have attached to them the most tenuous of negative connotations. Under the Orwellian veil of propriety and civic duty, a lengthy glossary, issued to major educational publishers and state agencies in New York, attempts to implement rigid bias guidelines for language. The guidelines are to be used by writers, editors, and illustrators when preparing textbooks and test materials for K-12 students.

These polemical scraps of mental domination, disguised as academic glossary, are about as subtle as a case of diverticulitis. In this new lexicon of victimization, the phrase "the blind leading the blind" is banned as handicapism; "cult" is outlawed as "ethnocentric when referring to a religious group"; "snowman" is sexist, to be replaced with "snow person"; a "slave" should be referred to as an "enslaved person"; "older people" replaces the "elderly," deemed ageist.

The list of images to avoid in text and illustration is sweeping, narrow-minded, and inanely superficial. Forbidden perceptions include:

  • Women portrayed as teachers, mothers, nurses, and/or secretaries
  • Females more preoccupied with their appearance than males
  • Girls as peaceful, emotional, warm
  • A pioneer woman riding in a covered wagon while a man walks
  • Women as passengers on a sailboat or sipping hot chocolate in a ski lodge
  • Men playing sports, working with tools

How the image of a woman sipping hot chocolate in a ski lodge came to be a trite sexist stereotype is perhaps understandable, but just how the overeager (if not warped) minds responsible for the glossary came to bring such an image to the battlegrounds of verbal effrontery is mystifying.

The list of images which need to be avoided when referencing the shared social conduct or behavioral development of Native Americans and African Americans is dizzyingly long. The roster includes:

  • Native Americans living in rural settings on reservations
  • Native Americans with long hair, braids, headbands
  • Native Americans portrayed as people who live in harmony with nature
  • African-Americans in crowded tenements on chaotic streets; in big, bright cars; in abandoned buildings with broken windows and wash hanging out; or living in innocuous, dull white-picket-fence neighborhoods

For Native Americans who do have long hair, braids, and headbands, it seems  to me as if the American Left is telling you that your unique appearance lacks freshness, and that for the benefit of the grand purpose of lubricating the wheels of homogenization, you should adopt the cultural aesthetics of lighter, brighter, blonder America.

Asian-Americans, according to these new bias guidelines, shouldn’t be depicted as ambitious, hardworking, or competitive, traits too onerous to embrace. Images of Chinese people who “have great food” and “Korean-Americans “owning or working in fruit markets” are likewise always to be avoided.

As hard as this may be to hear for the hypervigilant American Left, stereotypes are, for better or worse, rooted in some concrete foundation of truth. A kernel of actuality, and a distant echo of the past, exists in just about every stereotype known to man– er, humankind. Yes, some Asian-Americans are very intelligent, excellent scholars; some African-Americans do work as baggage handlers and shoe-shiners; Mexicans grind corn; older people in nursing homes need or use canes, walkers, wheelchairs, orthopedic shoes, and eyeglasses; unfortunately, a number of Native Americans are no strangers to alcoholism.  

At least these new guidelines leave no group unprotected from the vitriol of daily discourse, or feeling perennially victimized by the patronizing, sexist, or ethnocentric lexicon of our offensive speech. In today’s hypersensitive world, it’s a small wonder that we can even speak more than a few sentences without committing the ugly sin of insulting someone: gays (the word “fairy” is out of children’s books), the elderly (“senior citizen” is now said to be demeaning to “older persons”), the physically weak (“confined to a wheelchair” is replaced with “person who is mobility impaired”), or the incorrigibly insane (replace with “person who has an emotional disorder or psychiatric illness”).  

The problem with this type of political correctness is that it has no emotional backbone, and it wants, presumably, to sanitize the language so that it’s cleaner than a cat’s paw, reducing it to the wimpy neutrality of Switzerland during World War II.

It’s all part of the residual, collective, left-wing, guilt which has, for the past 30 years, attempted to deemphasize the contributions of our Founding Fathers (banned as sexist; replace with “the Founders” or “the Framers”), while instead overemphasizing the contributions of others as a way of boosting, if not creating, their self-esteem. This feel-good political correctness in the end does nothing more than actually force non-majority groups and individuals to internalize excessive amounts of often-imaginary loathing. It stems from the same egalitarian principles of thought control that espouses the belief that a downtrodden Chicano train graffitist is the contemporary intellectual and social equivalent of Pablo Picasso.  

Once the left-wing intelligentsia has manipulated language, twisted it beyond recognition, purged the final remnants of whatever it deems offensive from school, college and library books, where will it then set its self-validating correctives? Will Shakespeare be purged from the minds of the literati because he didn’t speak Swahili? Should we rewrite historical events to portray the 9/11 hijackers as Swedes so as not to arouse the tempestuous anger of Muslims?  

The fact of the matter is that the word “craftsmanship” is no more belittlingly sexist than the word “fairy” is pejorative to homosexuals. I do understand that language, similar to all other aspects of American social and political life isn’t static and should be subject to perpetual revisal, but accepting such change after it’s been thoughtfully agreed to – when it’s been necessitated by the demands of consensus – is one thing; having terms dictated to you by a handful of pushy, guilt-ridden leftists is something vastly disparate.

The most troubling problem here isn’t language, it isn’t the arbitrary replacement of a few words, and it isn’t even the coercive nature of mind control, or the loss of linguistic latitude. What is most problematic is the forced repackaging and rearranging of connotations and word affiliations instigated by certain people who are trying to overcorrect their own cultural disillusionment, emotional guilt, and staggering loss of individualism.

Reducing our dialect (banned as ethnocentric; use sparingly) to the lowest, simplest level of stultifying structure and egalitarianist balderdash, has become part of the modus operandi for mind control fanatics.

Indeed, words have consequences. Words and phrases do carry with them and project a multiplicity of ingrained connotations. Some may not be personable or pretty, but they may best sum or express our personal or historical frame of reference. To intentionally seek out words to repurpose, if not destroy, is the latest part of the pathetic but persevering saga of political correctness. Folk wisdom is certainly a fine supplantation, but what’s the real harm in still calling an old wives’ tale an old wives’ tale?

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About Brian D'Ambrosio

  • http://jonsobel.com Jon Sobel

    Thank you for highlighting this, it’s truly absurd. But why do you associate it with the “American Left”? You don’t say who has actually come up with these ridiculous guidelines. Who are the authors? Do they have an agenda other than to try to offend nobody? If they do, what’s the evidence?

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