Monday, November 14, 2005

A Nation Of Wusses

It is one of the crowning ironies of modern life that the political correctness movement, whose central aim is ostensibly to bolster our collective self-esteem by allowing us to exist in a rarefied universe where we see only the most positive race, class, and gender portrayals, is instead producing a nation of oversensitive crybabies. It's as though every sling and arrow deflected leaves us that much more thin-skinned; that much more vulnerable to the slightest suggestion that someone doesn't quite approve of us. Oh! How shall we bear this calumny?

The PC madness would be far more amusing if it were not so selective, hypocritical, and mean-spirited in nature; for like all strictures of this kind, speech codes and touchy-feely sensitivity training seem astonishingly tone-deaf when it comes to certain groups of people whom it seems perfectly acceptible to denigrate. A case in point:

In Alameda, California, an artist's mural consisting of silhouettes of happy children playing, painted from actual children at the school, was removed after complaints that the images of some children were reminiscent of pickaninnies.

For about a year the playful figures coexisted happily in the schoolyard with their muses — the real, live schoolchildren whom artist Jeena Wolfe has said she modeled the silhouettes after.

"When I drove by the fence it was colorful children playing," said one woman who came to a tense, emotional meeting at the West End school Thursday where many people argued for the figures to be put back up.

A few African-American women at the meeting Thursday sat in a circle of a few dozen people and tried to explain why the images offended them.

"I'm looking at beautiful African-American people here tonight, and the image is not that," Vickie Smith said, pointing at the silhouettes, which leaned against a gymnasium wall.

"I wouldn't comb my daughter's hair like that. I don't comb my own hair like that. Nobody seems to get it," she told the crowd.

Oh my. That sounds rather... intolerant, doesn't it? Hair-ism? Maybe I need to turn my Sensitivity Meter up a notch:

"You're not hearing what we are saying. We're not calling anybody racist. That's just not an image that represents us," she said before leaving the room in tears.

The man who later apologized said to her he "now understands. It's about hair, isn't it?"

"I am honoring those who are hurt and in pain," [Principal] Knoth said. "You would not believe how much sleep I have lost over the decision. But I stand behind what I did, whether other folks agree with me or not."

I see. Let me see if I understand your position, Principal Knoth: a few folks got their pantyhose in a knot because they don't think the way other people fix their daughters' hair fits approved racial stereotypes for black folks, and so you decided the "pain" of these "adults" was more important than telling those little girls their hair is racially unacceptible? Got it.

Oooh. But it sounds like they reached a consensus about feelings at the meeting. That's always so comforting, isn't it?

Rebecca Holder agreed with Knoth's executive decision.

"If we're hurting somebody, we need to stop," she said. "It's not OK to hurt other people. The way to tell (if you're hurting someone)," she said, "is if they're telling you."

But many people at Thursday's meeting did not agree.

Teacher Patty Osborne said young black girls at the school do wear their hair in braids much like the figures.

So to sum it all up, the facts don't matter and there is no longer any pretense of applying anything close to a "reasonable man standard" of what would cause offense. As long as one person is offended, no matter how unreasonable their feelings might be, the mural must go. Of course, the feelings of the people who liked the mural and will be upset if it is removed do not signify.

In Liverpool, the sight of heterosexual couples is thought to be so traumatizing to gay couples that inappropriate wedding scenes were summarily removed and replaced by more neutral landscapes in a civil registrar's office.

And it would seem that although the media constantly speak of the importance of questioning authority and the First Amendment, they're not entirely in favor of it when the speech in question is directed at them. In New York magazine, Ken Tucker complains about those nasty, horrid bloggers in a review of the movie, "Jarhead":

"Jarhead is a far more timid evaluation of military life than Jarhead the book. We've reached the point at which it often seems that the only Americans allowed to dilate upon military policy without being buried in bloggers' attacks are those who'e actually served; certainly that's the way Mendes's sanded-down version of Swofford's spiky book feels, and even Broyles say the movie is "apolitical"."

Free speech! It burnssss ussss. How we hatessss it!

It seems like everywhere you look, someone's mellow is being harshed, their fragile ego is being crushed, or their inner child soundly spanked by some insensitive brute. What is this country coming to? John Leo helpfully lists the top ten victim stories of 2005. My favorite is this one:

STUDENTS ARE VICTIMIZED BY THE DISAPPEARANCE OF LOW WEEKEND PRICES IN BARS. Pressured by the University of Wisconsin and a federal campaign against binge drinking, 24 bars near the Madison campus agreed to end cut-rate weekend prices. Three students and a Minneapolis law firm failed to convince a Wisconsin circuit judge that this represented conspiracy and price-fixing. But they are suing again in federal court. Legal costs to the bar owners so far: $250,000.

How dare business owners think they could charge regular prices! Those students pay their taxes! Fortunately, it is still considered quite good form to kick around the Jews. It's so good to know that some things in life never change.


At 5:10 PM, Blogger Gareth said...

Most of my gay contempories think that the Liverpool think is one of the funiest stories they have read for a long time.

Althogh apparently it's not the hetrosexual depictions of love which have cuased the upset, more the lack of homosexula ones to add balance, As a result the council took the whole lot down.

At 5:24 PM, Blogger Cassandra said...

That's what I don't get - how hard would it have been just to put up a few gay couples to balance everything out, if that was the concern?

I mean, it's not as though the news that there were hetero couples out there getting married was likely to come as a shocker... :D


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