The sheer stupidity of political correctness reached a new low this week when the University of New Hampshire had to distance itself from something published there in 2013. Apparently, a group of professors and students decided to do the world a favor and list words that they deemed to be offensive and offered substitutes that would be preferable. When the media found out that “American” was on the list, all hell broke loose.
As the chief purveyor of words here on grhgraph, I feel obliged to offer my humble opinion. Political correctness is the single worst thing that has happened to the art of communication since time began. Whoever came up with the concept that words should be politically correct didn’t even have the guts to explain what PC really stands for; it stands for preemptive censorship. They knew that saying it truthfully would not go over well, so they came up with a benign phrase that seems to have good intentions. Nothing could be further from the truth.
Prejudice exists in all facets of life. It is inescapable and therefore it needs to be dealt with, not denied. I don’t know a single person who hasn’t experienced it in their lifetime. I had my share of it daily, when I lived in New York City for 5 months in 1976-77. I was called every name in the book, in languages I didn’t even understand just for trying to do my job as a salesman. After months of abuse, I went to my manager, Ron Forzani, and said, “Why does everybody keep cursing at me?” Ron turned to me and said, “Stop complaining, at least they’re talking to you.”
Ron was the greatest salesman I ever met and he proceeded to offer me this invaluable lesson in effective communication. He pointed out that the worst kind of customer doesn’t say anything and you have no chance to sell that person anything. The good ones share their feelings, both good and bad. He said that overcoming objections and finding common ground was the key to winning at sales and letting New Yorker’s rant was essential. “If you chicken out while they’re yelling at you, then you have no chance.” He said that some of them even expect you to yell back at them just to prove you’re tough.
It was the most politically incorrect lesson I ever learned and it changed me forever. So much so that, when I was given the opportunity to meet the production manager for the NY Daily News, I used his lesson to my advantage. Before we got to the client, the salesman I was with, took me aside and said, “He’s going to say some pretty horrible things to you but just stand there and take it because this is a really good account.” I walked into his office and was introduced as, “This is Guy Horst and he’s from Kansas.” The client squeezed the crap out of my hand and then said, “Kansas, isn’t that the assh*le of the universe?” I smiled and said, “I don’t think so, I thought I was standing next to it.” The other salesman was having a heart attack at this point but the client just paused for a couple of seconds and said, “Hey kid, you’re all right. I was just wondering if you could take it.” He shook my hand again and we became friends immediately.
Do I wish we would have been kinder and more polite to each other? Sure, but the lesson here is that we chose our emotions and the way we reacted. The words we used didn’t cause us to hate each other but rather they gave us a common experience to laugh about. That client was actually one of the nicest people I met in NYC. He went out of his way to help me and I always paid my respects. I learned a lifelong lesson that day. Words will never define me, all that matters is how I react and that is all on me.
If I didn’t have the ability to control my emotions and my reactions to bad words, my life today would be miserable. I can’t count how many times, in the last few years of working with foster kids, I’ve been called an old, white guy. But then I have to remind myself that I’m old, I’m white and my name is Guy, so what part of that description is offensive? I could get mad but to what end? I can’t change my age or my skin color and I won’t change my name so why let it bother me? Political correctness is the coward’s way out and it really is preemptive censorship which is the worst kind of censorship of all. By making certain words off-limits, the self-proclaimed PC censors seek to unilaterally decide what’s best for all of us. Thanks, but no thanks, I don’t need your help. As long as the words being used are truthful, I’m okay with their meanings and I will decide for myself how to feel about them. I, for one, will never accept limits to my vocabulary or to my free speech rights as an American. If that offends someone else, that’s their problem not mine.
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