America has fought battles against PC before

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America has fought battles against PC before

Every 20 years or so, Amer­ica comes down with a seri­ous case of polit­i­cal correctivitis.

I’m old enough to remem­ber the first PC out­break in the 1970s, when the tide of ‘60s rad­i­cal­ism washed against the shore of Estab­lish­ment Amer­ica. Another epi­demic spread in the early 1990s, and we’re in the midst of the third – and most seri­ous – erup­tion now. We sur­vived the first two flare-​ups rel­a­tively intact, and I’m hop­ing Don­ald Trump can get us through the third.

Among the last­ing changes of the first PC wave were affir­ma­tive action, which ini­tially tar­geted blacks until women demanded to get into the action, and the begin­nings of iden­tity pol­i­tics (which activists from other groups viewed as a way to get a piece of the affir­ma­tive action bonanza).

Also impor­tant was how fem­i­nists changed the lan­guage, start­ing by intro­duc­ing three new words: sex­ist, sex­ism and Ms. Inflamed by Betty Friedan, Glo­ria Steinam and com­pany, female activists worked to rid the Eng­lish lan­guage of words they deemed sex­ist. Good­bye, police­man, mail­man and fire­man. Hello, police offi­cer, let­ter car­rier and firefighter.

For­tu­nately, other sub­sti­tutes never really took hold (except in Demo­c­rat quar­ters). Despite their best efforts, few nor­mal peo­ple really wanted to change “chair­man” to “chair­per­son” or “spokesman” to “spokesper­son.” A tidy solu­tion was to sub­sti­tute “-woman” for “-man” on a case-​by-​case basis.

Steinem was extra­or­di­nar­ily suc­cess­ful with the cre­ation of “Ms.” (the cour­tesy title, not the mag­a­zine). She was offended that all men were sim­ply addressed by “Mr.,” while women’s titles – “Mrs.” and “Miss” – were based on their mar­i­tal sta­tus. “Ms.” thus lev­eled the gen­der play­ing field.

(This caused prob­lems for me and other reporters. Many news­pa­per edi­tors were slow to approve the new cour­tesy title, which put us in the embar­rass­ing posi­tion of ask­ing females sources who used “Ms.” whether they were mar­ried. Most pub­li­ca­tions even­tu­ally solved that dilemma by drop­ping all cour­tesy titles and refer­ring to women only by their last names on sec­ond reference.)

After digest­ing all these changes, great and small, Amer­ica expe­ri­enced a new out­break of PC in the 1990s, when the seeds of iden­tity pol­i­tics planted a gen­er­a­tion ear­lier sprouted into saplings. The bas­tions of the Old Order who had faced the first wave were giv­ing way to new peo­ple whose beliefs were shaped in the ‘70s. Their faith in tra­di­tions was shaky, and they were more will­ing to com­pro­mise with advo­cates of iden­tity pol­i­tics. This was when the Left and the Right alike began using the term “polit­i­cally correct.”

Affir­ma­tive action had been dealt seri­ous set­backs in the courts, so activists began using “diver­sity” as the rea­son for push­ing racial and sex-​based quo­tas into all aspects of soci­ety, from the work­place to the schools. As today, diver­sity meant only racial, sex­ual and reli­gious dif­fer­ences; diver­sity of polit­i­cal thought was scorned.

I came upon this first-​hand when local school offi­cials put out a call for cit­i­zens to serve on sev­eral advi­sory boards, includ­ing a new com­mit­tee to fos­ter diver­sity. That struck a chord with con­cerned res­i­dents – 45 peo­ple, more than half of them men, showed up for the diver­sity committee’s orga­ni­za­tional meet­ing. The chair­woman, amazed by the turnout, started ask­ing crowd mem­bers why they were there.

One by one, each man and most of the women said they wanted to be on the com­mit­tee to make sure the schools empha­sized the sim­i­lar­i­ties among stu­dents, not the dif­fer­ences. Halfway through her ques­tion­ing, the chair­woman said the committee’s goal was to help stu­dents embrace their dis­tinc­tions, not stress what they shared in com­mon. At that point, all the men except me and most of the women stood up and left.

I stayed on, fig­ur­ing the rump com­mit­tee needed at least one voice of rea­son. After lis­ten­ing to and speak­ing out against schemes rang­ing from silly to gob­s­mack­ingly stu­pid, I gave up after six meet­ings. Luck­ily for my chil­dren, the plans they dis­cussed never went into effect. (Per­haps that hap­pened because I ran into a school board mem­ber, who was aghast when I told him what the com­mit­tee was up to.)

So here we are, strug­gling through a third PC epi­demic. Times never looked bleaker under Barack Obama, and I would have given up hope under a Hillary Clin­ton pres­i­dency. Trump’s refusal to buckle under to polit­i­cal cor­rect­ness cer­tainly gave him a boost in 2016, and he could put a big dent into PC cul­ture if he wins a sec­ond term.

I have just one tip for The Don­ald: Fight your foes through your poli­cies, not your tweets.

Every 20 years or so, America comes down with a serious case of political correctivitis.

I’m old enough to remember the first PC outbreak in the 1970s, when the tide of ’60s radicalism washed against the shore of Establishment America. Another epidemic spread in the early 1990s, and we’re in the midst of the third – and most serious – eruption now. We survived the first two flare-ups relatively intact, and I’m hoping Donald Trump can get us through the third.

Among the lasting changes of the first PC wave were affirmative action, which initially targeted blacks until women demanded to get into the action, and the beginnings of identity politics (which activists from other groups viewed as a way to get a piece of the affirmative action bonanza).

Also important was how feminists changed the language, starting by introducing three new words: sexist, sexism and Ms. Inflamed by Betty Friedan, Gloria Steinam and company, female activists worked to rid the English language of words they deemed sexist. Goodbye, policeman, mailman and fireman. Hello, police officer, letter carrier and firefighter.

Fortunately, other substitutes never really took hold (except in Democrat quarters). Despite their best efforts, few normal people really wanted to change “chairman” to “chairperson” or “spokesman” to “spokesperson.” A tidy solution was to substitute “-woman” for “-man” on a case-by-case basis.

Steinem was extraordinarily successful with the creation of “Ms.” (the courtesy title, not the magazine). She was offended that all men were simply addressed by “Mr.,” while women’s titles – “Mrs.” and “Miss” – were based on their marital status. “Ms.” thus leveled the gender playing field.

(This caused problems for me and other reporters. Many newspaper editors were slow to approve the new courtesy title, which put us in the embarrassing position of asking females sources who used “Ms.” whether they were married. Most publications eventually solved that dilemma by dropping all courtesy titles and referring to women only by their last names on second reference.)

After digesting all these changes, great and small, America experienced a new outbreak of PC in the 1990s, when the seeds of identity politics planted a generation earlier sprouted into saplings. The bastions of the Old Order who had faced the first wave were giving way to new people whose beliefs were shaped in the ’70s. Their faith in traditions was shaky, and they were more willing to compromise with advocates of identity politics. This was when the Left and the Right alike began using the term “politically correct.”

Affirmative action had been dealt serious setbacks in the courts, so activists began using “diversity” as the reason for pushing racial and sex-based quotas into all aspects of society, from the workplace to the schools. As today, diversity meant only racial, sexual and religious differences; diversity of political thought was scorned.

I came upon this first-hand when local school officials put out a call for citizens to serve on several advisory boards, including a new committee to foster diversity. That struck a chord with concerned residents – 45 people, more than half of them men, showed up for the diversity committee’s organizational meeting. The chairwoman, amazed by the turnout, started asking crowd members why they were there.

One by one, each man and most of the women said they wanted to be on the committee to make sure the schools emphasized the similarities among students, not the differences. Halfway through her questioning, the chairwoman said the committee’s goal was to help students embrace their distinctions, not stress what they shared in common. At that point, all the men except me and most of the women stood up and left.

I stayed on, figuring the rump committee needed at least one voice of reason. After listening to and speaking out against schemes ranging from silly to gobsmackingly stupid, I gave up after six meetings. Luckily for my children, the plans they discussed never went into effect. (Perhaps that happened because I ran into a school board member, who was aghast when I told him what the committee was up to.)

So here we are, struggling through a third PC epidemic. Times never looked bleaker under Barack Obama, and I would have given up hope under a Hillary Clinton presidency. Trump’s refusal to buckle under to political correctness certainly gave him a boost in 2016, and he could put a big dent into PC culture if he wins a second term.

I have just one tip for The Donald: Fight your foes through your policies, not your tweets.