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You only think you know what it means to be politically correct

Meredith Bland is a freelance writer whose work has appeared on Time.com, Brain, Mother, The Rumpus, Scary Mommy and Narratively, among others.

If you don’t want to be politically correct, you’re kind of a jerk

During this unusual election cycle, one of the tropes used to create support for the Republicans is that our country is too "politically correct." Let's be clear about something: When we hear people saying, "This country's biggest problem is political correctness," what they're really saying is, "I'm kind of an asshole and I don't want to be judged for it."

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When Ted Cruz weighed in on the transgender bathroom issue, he called it "politically correct lunacy." When Donald Trump attacked President Obama over the Orlando shooting, he insisted that "we can't afford to be politically correct anymore." Of late when there is a call for empathy and understanding in America, it seems an increasing number of people brush it off as another example of political correctness.

When people today throw around the term, "politically correct," they are trying to accomplish two things.

First, they want us to hearken back to the 1980s when the term was first used by conservatives to dismiss liberal viewpoints. They want us to remember cumbersome descriptors like, "vertically challenged" and "domestic engineer." They want us to roll our eyes and laugh about misguided attempts to remove shame from words that didn't really have any to begin with. What this conveniently ignores, however, is that there are words that carry the historical weight that comes from a violent past and should no longer be used in a time and a country that is trying to outgrow them.

The second and more obvious goal of using the term "politically correct" is to imply that the other side is too sensitive and needs to get over any pain associated with language. The offended person is said to be overreacting because the offender either thinks they're right and is tired of the pushback or believes that we are all on a level playing field and therefore no harm can be done with mere words.

Recently, a pastor in Oregon was criticized for the words he put on his church's signboard. One side read, "Wake up Christians, Allah is not our God. Muhammad not greater than Jesus," and the other side read, "Only the Bible is God's word. 'Holy Book.' Koran is just another book." When asked about the sign by a local TV station, he said, "I'm not politically correct. I've never been politically correct, but I'm biblically correct and that's what matters to me." He has taken his slandering of Islam completely out of context and instead is pretending that this is just a religious argument. You cannot, however, ridicule Muslims in this country and pretend that it's not firmly entrenched in the last 15 years of our country's history. And by saying that he's not politically correct, this man is implying that any who takes offense to this sign is overreacting.

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The truth, however, is that people like that are too removed from those parts of the world that challenge them and too far from the ground to notice the pits and divots there that bring others to their knees.

When people rail about how this country is too politically correct, they are saying that they think they should be able to say whatever they want about people without being made to feel bad about it.

This is similar to the way your ex-boyfriend told you to relax when you got mad because he said that the dress you were wearing made you look like a slut. It's an exasperation with the fact that the oppressed still refuse to come to terms with their oppression.

Let's go to the great wide world of memes for a couple of examples of this viewpoint:

If you don’t want to be politically correct, you’re kind of a jerk

It's hard to care about other people's feelings, and it's even harder to acknowledge that you hold views that some believe are hurtful and even hateful. (Ask any sociopath — it's much less stressful to live your life when you don't give a shit about anyone else's.)

We're never going to be rid of people who hold their right to cruelty above the rights of others, but we also don't have to let them represent us. Using the term "political correctness" is a sham; it's a desperate attempt to hold onto a worldview that sees a lack of compassion as strength.

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Fortunately there are still more of us who embrace the weakness that comes with feeling and admire the courage that one only gets from the scrapes and bruises that come with it... at least we hope.

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