Every now and then an essay breaks out and becomes the fodder for much conversation. Such was the recent musings of Jonathan Chait in an essay for New York Magazine titled "Not a Very PC Thing to Say."
Before you think this was a conservative writing to uphold conservative ideas, think again. This was a self-ascribed "liberal" taking other liberals to task for being so "PC" that they were undermining…liberalism!
The heart of his essay, to my thinking, was a lament for the seeming inability for disagreement apart from demonization.
In one of the more telling sections, Chait writes: "Political correctness is a style of politics in which the more radical members of the left attempt to regulate political discourse by defining opposing views as bigoted and illegitimate."
Going further, he maintains that "political correctness is not a rigorous commitment to social equality so much as a system of left-wing ideological repression. Not only is it not a form of liberalism; it is antithetical to liberalism. Indeed, its most frequent victims turn out to be liberals themselves."
And in case you didn't think that was strong enough, consider the following:
"If a person who is accused of bias attempts to defend his intentions, he merely compounds his own guilt…It is likewise taboo to request that the accusation be rendered in a less hostile manner. This is called "tone policing." If you are accused of bias, or "called out," reflection and apology are the only acceptable response — to dispute a call-out only makes it worse. There is no allowance in p.c. culture for the possibility that the accusation may be erroneous."
But it was his final paragraph that suggested the way forward:
"Politics in a democracy is still based on getting people to agree with you, not making them afraid to disagree. The historical record of political movements that sought to expand freedom for the oppressed by eliminating it for their enemies is dismal. The historical record of American liberalism…is glorious. And that glory rests in its confidence in the ultimate power of reason, not coercion, to triumph."
So let's have an open and robust public square contending for hearts and minds, including those ideas that might be deemed faith-based. Or even, dare I say it, rooted in historic Christianity.
And then, let's all agree to disagree
James Emery White
Jonathan Chait, "Not a Very PC Thing to Say," New York Magazine, January 27, 2015, read online.