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Sticks, stones and political correctness

On average, people are able to speak 150 words per minute. That’s 2,400 words per person, per day. If you multiply that times the 300 million people in the United States, you get 720 trillion words spoken on a daily basis.

With such an extensive mass of communication, it’s obvious that some of the words, somewhere along the way, probably offended someone.

This is where political correctness was developed.

Don Imus is credited with a very publicized politically incorrect statement said during his April 2007 radio show, Imus in the Morning.

His words were completely uncalled for and incredibly offensive to a race of people who have overcome countless obstacles, finally swearing into office the first black president of the United States just days ago. However, they were his words, his thoughts and his opinions.

Political correctness rests on an incredibly thin line. What separates a personal thought or opinion from a politically incorrect statement?

There are certain terms that our society deems unacceptable, but how many times have you called someone crazy, redneck, a spaz, a retard or gay? All of these are technically defined as politically incorrect, so why has society singled out some words and turned a blind eye to others?

The word “spastic” can be used in public with basically no ill regard. It is used in America to describe over excitement, excessive energy or hyperactivity. It sounds harmless, but it originated from spastic diplegia related to cerebral palsy. Is it still inoffensive?

Everyone has heard the children’s rhyme, “Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will never hurt me.” We were told this while we were young to protect us, and we assumed that if Mrs. Denkins said it on the playground during recess, it must be true.

The fact is, it isn’t the truth. Words are extraordinarily potent. One reason for this is because of their versatility. Society hasn’t turned a blind eye to these offensive words, the interpretations or labels have simply changed over time.

Political correctness is basically a social theory. Humanity labels things according to current issues and their knowledge or experience.

In George Orwell’s novel 1984, society was trained to believe “War is peace. Freedom is slavery. Ignorance is strength.”

The citizens in the novel believed that two plus two equaled five. Their government instilled this incorrect thought into their people through fear and ignorance, and eventually they simply understood it to be true.

It is comfortable to think that in reality an entire society’s perception could never be so easily distorted. However, this scenario has repeated itself a number of times throughout history. Nazi Germany is the most evident example of social theory gone astray.

What society deems “correct” may not always be moral and vice-versa. While we may never completely understand society’s motives, one thing is obvious, words are powerful.

They are powerful enough to have their own amendment in the constitution, and freedom of speech is what gives Don Imus the ability to say what he thinks.

As a journalist, I stand by the quote, “I may not agree with what you say, but I defend to the death your right to say it.”

I don’t believe that people’s thoughts or words should be censored, and giving society the ability to determine what is “correct” for the entire population is a slippery slope.

History has proven that political correctness and similar ideas are often commandeered and eventually manipulated to oppress civilizations.

Political correctness is damaging because words lose their meanings over time, interpretations change, and labels are made and destroyed.

Words are flexible in their power and society shouldn’t attempt to confine them.

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