I’m coming to this subject a bit late. I’ve been busy and therefore, incapable of addressing this matter and it’s been bothering me. It’s one of those things that gets angrier every time I think about it.
I’m talking about the Juan Williams mishegas.
He should never have been fired from NPR. What he said the truth, as he saw it; as he felt it to be. He shouldn’t be punished for that and in the grand scheme of things, it was innocuous.
Here’s what he said to Bill O’Reilly:
He admitted on network TV that he gets nervous when he sees Muslims on a plane, especially those in their garb. Then he quickly stated that he wasn’t necessarily condemning ALL of Islam. Yet, how would Juan Williams, wise-man that I’m sure he is, be able to discern what hate looks like or how it dresses?? Therefore, why wouldn’t he be “concerned”??
Political correctness is an occluding force. It’s a convenient excuse that OK’s living in denial and seeks the easy way out. Prejudice, if you can believe it, is being bastardized. Yes, I said it; prejudice is being used incorrectly and with insincerity, if that’s possible. Prejudice, bias…intolerance; these are actually far more complex issues than that which we see because it’s in that, that we fear. It’s never just a matter of being black or white….or red, brown, gay, fat, Jewish, tattooed all to hell and back; an ambitious woman seeking to bust through a male constructed glass ceiling. It’s never JUST Catholic, Muslim, crippled, or some publicity hungry A-hole male demanding that the Panhellenic Council AND the Supreme Court allow him to rush a sorority at Syracuse next fall. There are extenuating circumstances; special interests, selfishness…and more. And as a way combatting prejudice of any kind, we employ political correctness.
It has an actual beginning and it’s an interesting one. It was developed at the Institute for Social Research in Frankfurt, Germany, which was founded in 1923 and came to be known as the “Frankfurt School.” Its internal ‘think tank’ wanted to find a solution to the biggest problem facing communism in Russia. Essentially, these noted thinkers wanted to figure out why the “share the wealth” wonders of Communism wasn’t taking off like wildfire as they’d predicted.
Why? Because Western Civilization and its embrace of capitalism was and continues to be its biggest stumbling block. Communism fears free thought and individual expression. At its core is the theory that all valid ideas can ONLY come from the masses; the classic strength in numbers bit. Well, that might work in a rousing game of Red Rover in Aunt Sally’s backyard, but it’s not always applicable in real life. In Communism, the group is everything; without it, the individual is nothing. Communists believed that the only way for communism to advance was to help or force, as it were, Western Civilization to destroy itself and that’s done subversively. It’s necessary to undermine its foundations by chipping away at the rights of those annoying, pesky individuals, who under the rule of the red flag with the hammer and sickle on it, are irrelevant.
The undermining process works by changing the individual’s speech and thought process. Then, you spread the idea that expressing one’s belief(s) is disrespectful to others. This must be avoided at all costs because silence will make up for past inequities and injustices. And then you put a dab of whipped Kremlin on it and call it something that sounds really fun and positive, such as “Political Correctness.”
Conceptually, it’s all worked about as well as the global spread of Esperanto as the universal language.
Things happen and fear comes into play. And sometimes, we simply have to be afraid. That keeps us on our toes. Look where relaxed, cavalier attitudes got us. For example, on the afternoon of September 10, 2001, you might have thought nothing of the swarthy young man, nervously sitting next to you in Row 16. It didn’t faze you as your trans-continental flight took off.
Perhaps on that inauspicious day, a group of men wearing long flowing thobes and jubbas meant nothing to you. You might have even admired their gender bending, fashion forward thinking, in spite of their garb selection being a conscious religious emulation. You thought nothing of their seemingly excessive body hair, their dark skin, their accents. Oh yeah, sure they were Middle Easterners…Arabs, perhaps; Lebanese maybe; Egyptians possibly….Muslims, definitely, but it really didn’t matter. We were insulated. Safe. Far removed from the murderous hate mongering practiced by the PLO, Hezbollah, Hamas and their radical West hating splinter groups all of which were a half a world away. Besides, this was the United States, sweetheart!!! We were impervious, right?
We weren’t and because of this political and social porosity, everything changed the next morning. Nineteen religious zealots made sure of that.
Juan Williams merely expressed what he felt; he was being honest. The events of September 11th changed him as it did everyone else. He wasn’t perpetuating systemic hate. He wasn’t trying to rile anyone. He merely expressed what everyone else feels or at least, has felt since that fateful September day, nine years ago. The destruction of the World Trade Center left us feeling incredibly vulnerable. Especially in the way we were attacked. These 19 men and the rest of Al Qaeda plotted and schemed for years to carry out this plan and infiltrated our society and lived among us with no one being the wiser. And they did this through the weaknesses in our own system; they took advantage of arrogant “can’t happen to us” attitudes which helped create so many flaws in our system of checks and balances.
The reality is Political Correctness is stifling this country and rendering it weaker. It’s a scourge worse than Bird Flu, bed bugs and salmonella outbreaks. It’s insidious and used all too often has a crutch, as an excuse and as all-purpose blanket blame when acting responsibly would have been a far better tactic. But responsibility requires effort and it’s easier to play victim. That way, there might be some sort of compensation if we go that route. That’s become a pathetic, but all too common reaction/response. It’s the “easy to go to; what do I get out of it” reaction. I call it “The Katrina-ing of America”.
This attitude is like an epidemic and we need a vaccine. Don’t look to the CDC or the FDA to provide it, but you’re close. This is really a 1st Amendment matter. We need to let our Government know, in no uncertain terms that it can’t squelch what we say or think with special interest editing modalities, such as the ACLU. Unwavering honesty is what’s needed. Show respect yes, but we need to risk the occasional ruffling of feathers. We need to resist walking on eggshells. We need to be able to tell it like it is without the fear of retribution.
In the end, and contrary to how it might seem, I’m all about respect. I really am, but I’m also all about being real and being able to see the irony and the absurdity where it exists and ultimately, that means being able to laugh at ourselves while keeping knee jerk reactions and spontaneous hate down to a bare minimum. My screed is disagree, but don’t disembowel, for God’s sake.
Perhaps it’s safe to say that when it comes to discrimmination, we have to be more discrimminating. Separate the good from the bad and there are bad people in the world. Many happen to be Black, Muslim extremists, Hispanic, Al Jarreau fans, White, Hindu, Jewish, Irish Catholic and yes, even Inuit. If you were raped, beaten and left for dead by a crazed Black man, you will have in issue with Black men. By the same token, a young black woman in Birmingham, Alabama circa 1949 who witnessed white men in white robes and pointy masks, break down her front door only to watch her father being dragged out into the night, then was forced to watch as family members cut the noose loose from around his neck in the same tree she played under, will have very defined issues with white men from that point on. Understandably so. Damaged psyches don’t stop to rationalize fear in a fight or flight scenarios. It doesn’t work that way. And the people in the periphery of these hate crimes? These things affect them, too. Fear is rarely ever logical.
And as for lumping all facets of Islam under one umbrella, well let me pose this to you: the overall appearance of terrorism has changed. It’s damned near impossible to separate fundamentalists and extremists from the peace-loving, West tolerant, everyday looking members of Islam. In the case of our enemy, this is intentional. To carry out the 9/11 attacks, it was imperative that the radicals blend in with American society; to live among us without standing out. They looked like they belonged here; students heading back to school; businessmen on a trip. We had no way of knowing. It’s not like they wore name tags.
On the morning of September 11, 2001, they looked as their masters told them to look: just like everybody else.
And had anyone suspected anything, would anyone have done anything? Or was the risk of offending a member of an ethnic group too great?
It’s one thing to be educated, tactful and polite; it’s quite another to be forced to self-censor and say things that are blatant falsehoods in order to pacify the silly, arbitrary aphorisms of a deceptively fanatical agenda, be it far right or far left.
In the new millenium, it’s simply not worth the risk.