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Words from Winterbilt

Political correctness

Shannon Bohrer

(8/2016) If someone uses words that offends someone, and then defends themself by saying they are tired of being politically correct, does that make their speech acceptable? In recent months individuals have made comments that seem to offend people and then defended themselves – saying they are tired of being politically correct. The fact that people are often divided on the issue of being "Politically Correct" should not surprise anyone. We are a diverse nation, we have many views and we often see the world around us through different lenses and perspectives. Besides, not being politically correct - is not a crime. And, it is a political season…..

A while ago Donald Trump gave a speech in which he expressed the view that a Judge, who he saw as Mexican or Hispanic decent, would not be fair in his dealings with a civil suit. Almost immediately the commentators, the experts and even some members of Trump’s own party spoke out against the remarks, evening saying it was racist. Of course, Mr. Trump also had his defenders who said that the public is tired of being politically correct. Could it be both?

The argument is simple, if you believe that one’s ethnic origins would or could prohibit that individual from performing their job, its’ racism. So attaching one’s race or ethnic origin to an individual for the purpose of treating them differently is discrimination. To those individuals that believe that Mr. Trump was just not being "Politically Correct" you are correct, because he was also was expressing racism.

It could be argued that everyone at some time has judged individuals by race, sex, ethic lineage, and even religion. But making a judgement is not the same as treating someone differently – and treating someone differently is a problem. By saying someone is not qualified because of their race, religion or national origin - they are not being treated equally. Treating people equally is equitable; it’s the very idea of fairness. Do we always treat everyone fairly, probably not? We are all human and we are imperfect and not treating someone fairly, usually by an individual, is normally not a crime. It sometimes is a crime if done intentionally by a group or a government entity.

However, to be rude, to demean an individual or group and to then say "I am not politically correct," is also not an excuse for behavior that is hurtful to others. Saying that someone is not politically correct is not a pass for being a bigot. Conversely, this is America and we do have freedom of speech.

We have a war of terror which has been going on for many years, and will probably continue for many more, that has often been scrutinized for "Political Correctness." Whenever a Muslim commits a terrorist act, we revisit the debate as to whether the person committing the act is a radical Islamist Jihadist - or just a terrorist. Both sides are entrenched in their beliefs and compromise is not an option. Both sides know their side is correct and the opposition is just wrong. One side says we should not label a religion, since most Muslims are not terrorists and the other side says call it like it is, without regard to being politically correct.

Recent terrorist attacks in this country include the Boston marathon bombing, the San Bernardino case and the Orlando night club shooting, all of which are related to radicals that are Islamist. But we also had Virginia Tech, Sandy Hook and the Colorado Theater which all related to mental illness. Should we call them moral imbecile terrorist? If we go back a few years the active shooter incidents seem to have started in Columbine Colorado, with two so-called Christian students. When we have incidents that are not related to the Islamist or Muslim religion, how to we describe them? Should we identify them as radical Christian terrorist, or maybe just non-Islamist terrorist?

When the Oklahoma City Bombing occurred I remember that there was significant speculation that it was a foreign (Probably Muslim) terrorist. But, the actors were domestic terrorists; Timothy McVeigh and Terry Nichols. That bombing killed 168 people and injured close to 700. I also remember the controversy that developed when Timothy McVeigh was described as a Christian Terrorist. After all, not all Christians are terrorists. There were even news reports that Timothy McVeigh was an Alter boy, but I don’t remember if that issue was every substantiated. In fact, it seemed that some investigations were focused more on either confirming that he was or was not religious. I don’t think religion had anything to do with the bombing.

It was widely reported that at least part of McVeigh’s motivation to commit the Oklahoma City Bombing was the incident at the Mount Carmel Center, the Branch Davidians in Waco Texas. The leader of the Branch Davidians was David Koresh, who was accused of sleeping with a 13 year old child, along with numerous other women in the sect. Koresh was the Christian minister and leader of the Branch Davidian Church. In 1993 the ATF attempted to arrest David Koresh for possession of illegal firearms, and a gun fight erupted and a standoff ensued that resulted in multiple deaths. Just during the initial fight, 4 agents and 6 Branch Davidians were killed. When the government attacked the compound and it caught fire, 76 additional people died. Was David Koresh a Radical Christian extremist?

In 1978 Jim Jones, the leader of the Peoples Temple, an American Christian organization, moved to Guyana with over 900 of his followers. They lived at the "Peoples Temple Agricultural Project," referred to as "Jonestown," where they practiced their Christian religion. On November 18, in 1978, a total of 909 people died at "Jonestown," most of them from cyanide poisoning. The deaths were called either mass suicide or mass murder. Survivors, and there were a few, referred to the event as mass murder. Before the masses ingested the cyanide, 5 people including a congressman, were killed at a nearby airport, by temple members. "Jonestown" was horrific and it was perpetrated by a self-proclaimed "Christian" leader, but it was not referred to as "Radical Christian Terrorism."

In America, you do not have to be politically correct and you can say what you want – freedom of speech. And you also have the right to complain about other speech of others and they have a right to complain about your speech. Even if the speech is wrong – you have those rights.

A word of caution, speech is free but sometimes the cost is more than expected.

Read other articles by Shannon Bohrer