Unpopular ideas deserve protection

“What does your mom do?”

“She’s a domestic management specialist.”

“A what?!”

What kind of euphemized language is that? It’s an example of “politically-correct” speech. “PC” language attempts to create equality in our vocabulary by eliminating harsh or offensive words, and substituting more orthodox, gender/class/race-neutral language.

So what’s the problem with wanting our vocabulary to reflect sensitivity to individuals? The problem is this progressive movement has the potential to get carried away, and in so doing step on the toes of the First Amendment.

It is true that language reflects the beliefs of the culture. Hence, if we clean up the language, maybe then people will think more sensitively and thus act that way as well. Maybe there would be fewer racial incidents, cases of sexual discrimination, etc. This theory sounds good.

But the First Amendment to the Constitution guarantees every U.S. citizen the right to free expression. If we sterilize our vocabulary, how many words will be erased? And what will happen to artistic freedom? How far will it go?

For example, Rush Limbaugh often spews forth ideas and language offensive to some (I need not repeat any here). And while I personally don’t support most of what he believes, he is entitled to express his opinions to the public via the media, no matter how misinformed or biased they may be.

So while someone may be offended by Rush terminology, he is only exercising his freedom. It’s not too hard to shut Rush out thanks to the remote control, but the fact remains that he’s on TV for all to witness.

While it is understandable that people don’t like to be insulted, we have to keep the freedoms this country was founded on in mind. Without free thought, there can be no progress. Without free expression, there can be no change. How can you formulate your own opinions if you don’t gather facts as well as several viewpoints on the issue? A well-informed opinion needs this type of input.

What was once thought radical and unpopular in its time is often widely accepted today. For example, Uncle Tom’s Cabin stirred up some controversy when first published, mainly in the American south. Today, however, we can accept Harriet Beecher Stowe’s indictment of slavery without much question. Sure, we’re a ways from being truly equal and eliminating prejudice all together, but at least things have progressed since the last century. And we realize that the freedoms guaranteed in the Constitution apply to all citizens.

Radical thinking doesn’t always produce positive effects, but it’s absolutely necessary to the intellectual makeup of this society. We need to share our ideas, even if some are offended by them, to formulate ideologies.

You need to hear all sides of an issue. What one needs to remember is that some opinions are worth more than others. The insensitive loudmouth who uses sexist language is drawing some of his energy from emotion, making his argument less rational. His opinion should be heard, but weighed carefully.

I am not endorsing verbal warfare. But I am supporting the right of every individual to express herself or himself. Growth is painful, and sometimes people get hurt in the process. But our collective ideology cannot grow without input from many perspectives.

Sterilizing the language we use will lead to the censorship of the expression of unpopular ideas. We can’t euphemize strong opinions to appease every faction of our diverse culture, because in the cleanup we’ll throw away the seeds of new potential.