This piece was published in the Pasadena Star-News, Whittier Daily News, and the San Gabriel Valley Tribune on October 8, 2018.
"That's not politically correct," a co-worker said snidely.
I first heard that term about twenty-five years ago in a staff meeting. The offender had said something about an ethnic group and the nasty food they ate.
When I first heard the words “politically correct,” I took it to mean that people watched what they said about other people in what we used to call “polite society.”
Along came Donald Trump, proudly proclaiming that he was not politically correct. He then unleashed a barrage of accusations against several groups of people, specifically Mexicans and Muslims. It was just the start of the vile things he says that we now have come to expect. His supporters cheer him on when he breaches the norms of decency that prohibit epithets and racial slurs. This behavior drags us down further every time. His idea of not being politically correct is breaking the bonds of common decency.
Being politically correct means you watch your mouth around other people. When you are in a group setting, you give some thought about what you say so as not to insult other people. You expect them to do the same. It’s called manners. It doesn’t mean you can’t state an opinion, or have a heated debate. It simply means that you must respect people who are different from you.
Donald Trump kicked off his campaign calling Mexicans rapists and murderers, and women names I refuse to reprint. He denigrated heroic Americans like John McCain and Khizr Khan’s son, Humayun Khan, who died defending our country. He said those things before he got elected and most Americans thought that people wouldn’t vote for him because he jeered at our deeply held American values under the guise of speaking some perverted kind of truth.
Many times I thought his terrible rhetoric would disqualify him; it wasn’t like the Republicans didn’t have some other viable candidates running. Trump picked them off one by one, with insults and accusations. That is why millions of Americans were depressed on election night. A man who had just been elected to the highest office in the land had no respect for millions of Americans, for the environment, disabled people, science, and basic American values. It broke my heart when he called the White House a “dump.”
Donald Trump has brought out the worst in us and has managed to further polarize our country by pitting people against one another and dividing families, including my own. Social media has thrown gas on this blazing fire. Words we Americans would never say to a person’s face, we will post on social media.
His rhetoric is rapidly dissolving the glue that holds our civil society together. It’s easy to follow his lead, to blame the politically correct crowd, to want to see them fail. But if good manners fail, and we believe insults and slanderous words are permissible, the future of the county is in doubt. Donald Trump started this awful trend and he will not be the one to stop it.
With every vicious tweet from the president, we sink a little lower. Many have said that Donald Trump is a symptom of the deterioration of our public discourse. Gossiping and
name-calling will never go away. They are part of human nature. But they need to go back where they belong, behind closed doors where, at some point, somebody says, “That’s mean. Stop it.”
Mr. President: That’s mean. Stop it.
Kathleen Vallee Stein