Speaking of Silly Issues

Political Correctness on Steroids?

No. on methamphetamine? 

Maybe there is no adequate metaphor or intensive allusion to describe the essay entitled “What Did You Just Say?”in the July/August 2012 issue of State Magazine, an official publication of the United States Department of State (current Secretary, the Hon. Hilary Clinton).

Perhaps diplomatic etiquette is even more restrictive than what we heretofore believed. I understand the necessity to avoid inadvertently insulting allies or provoking less than friendly nuclear powers. As a firm believer in generating light rather than heat in most situations, I generally avoid gratuitously offensive speech. But enough is enough.

John Robinson, the State Department’s Chief Diversity Officer, appears to think otherwise. At the outset, I am appalled that such a position even exists in a government agency. No doubt it comes with a generous salary and benefits, at taxpayer expense. (GS-10, Step 1 is $74, 872, GS-15, Step 10 is $155,500 for Washington, D.C. If the position is a Senior Executive Service level, it would probably be higher.)

For such lucrative pay, Mr. Robinson gets to come up with and admonish employees of the State Department and, possibly others, to avoid committing such unpardonable sins like the following:

How many times have you or a colleague asked if someone could “hold down the fort?” For example, “Could you hold down the fort while I go to…” You were likely asking someone to watch the office while you go and do something else, but the phrase’s historical connotation to some is negative and racially offensive. To “hold down the fort” originally meant to watch and protect against the vicious Native American intruders. In the territories of the West, Army soldiers or settlers saw the “fort” as their refuge from their perceived “enemy,” the stereotypical “savage” Native American tribes.

Of course, I am highly offended that anyone would restrict the native American appellation to those who had an ancestor who immigrated prior to 1492. “Native,” of course, literally means being born. If one is born is this country, one is a native American. Putting that beef aside, who other than a full time history professor who doesn’t have the talent or gumption to do much serious research would come up with such esoterica? It’s all for a good cause, though. It gives yet another phrase for those – mostly light complexioned pseudo-intellectuals – who have nothing better to do than grieve for their non-melanin challenged brethren, who, if not, should be offended.

“Going Dutch.” Likely you or your colleague meant that each person pays for his or her own meal. The historical meaning: a negative stereotype portraying the Dutch as cheap because

they will invite you to a meal but then not pay for it.

Somehow, knowing what the Hollanders have put up with, present and past, in their hardy little nation, one cannot imagine a Dutchman being offended by anything less than a slap in the face. Probably not even that, given some of the recent events such as the murder of Theo van Gogh and the exile of Ayann Hirsi Ali as a result of Muslim extremism tolerated there.

“Rule of thumb.” This is an acknowledged and generally accepted benchmark. Many women’s rights activists claim this term refers to an antiquated law, whereby the width of a husband’s thumb was the legal size of a switch or rod allowed to beat his wife. If her bruises were not larger than the width of his thumb, the husband could not be brought to court to answer for his behavior because he had not violated the “rule of thumb.”

The origin of this expression is uncertain, I disagree that it is acknowledged by any scholars. Nevertheless, good grief!

There is no absolute verification as to the historical roots of the word “handicap.” However, many disability advocates believe this term is rooted in a correlation between a disabled individual and a beggar, who had to beg with a cap in his or her hand because of the inability to maintain employment.

If there is no such verification, why bring it up. Does anyone know someone who has been brought to tears by hearing the word uttered? In Britain, I noticed that there are organizations and programs to assist “cripples” and “spastics” that no one seems to take offense with.

 
This year, NIKE, the famous footwear company, celebrated Irish culture and St. Patrick’s Day by introducing a new sneaker in the United States called the Black and Tan. Ah, Black and Tan,
the foamy concoction that is half pale ale, half Guinness Stout. What a wonderful celebratory gesture and appreciation for Irish culture. Not! What the creator failed to account for is the historical context of the Black and Tan. The original Black and Tans were an ad hoc military group that committed atrocities against Irish civilians; the “tan” referred to the khaki of their uniforms.

Robinson goes on to relate that Nike caved and removed the name Black and Tan from the offending footwear. I’m sure “sneaker” probably should be banned, also, as it might be offensive to wearers who might be burglars. The pusillanimous character of the big corporate world is well known, so that is probably no surprise. Anyway, the paramilitary Black and Tans were certainly matched in atrocities by the IRA Provos. Perhaps “IRA” should be banned as an acronym for individual retirement accounts. Might offend Irish Protestants, but, since they are not one of the left’s favored groups, they probably don’t matter.

Craziness. Your tax dollars are being spent for this nonsense. No wonder we’re in such fiscal shape. For one thing, no doubt the cost of Nike’s re-branding will be passed on to their customers, of which I am not one. I can think of a lot more useful work for Mr. Robinson, if he is employable in the private sector.

Common, everyday figures of speech, particularly when no offense is intended, or remotely though possible should never be proscribed. These sayings are part of cultural literacy, which a growing number of Americans seem to lack. Furthermore, the world is full of sights, sounds, odors, tastes, and touches offensive to varying degrees. We cannot sanitize everything, nor should we. It’s part of life, and euphemisms inhibit communication.

Can you hold down the fort while I put on my sneakers and go down to the pub to quaff a few black and tans? I promise not to park in the handicapped parking space. My companion and I are going Dutch, of course.

For the entire article see this link
http://www.state.gov/documents/organization/195572.pdf

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