In light of the horrible news from Paris and the devastating downing of the Russian passenger jet last week, I am pasting below the immortal words of Winston Churchill (posted to Facebook by Carol Cork).
"You ask, what is our aim? I can answer in one word: Victory. Victory at all costs—Victory in spite of all terror—Victory, however long and hard the road may be, for without victory there is no survival."
- Winston Churchill
(May 13, 1940)
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And lest we find our own selves teetering on the edge of extremism, let us consider how easy it is to carry what at first seems right and proper to such an extreme that we become as nonsensical, as unreasoning and fanatical as those we oppose. The following blog was planned before the terror attacks in Paris and refers to incidents much less dire, but the principle is similar. We all like to think we would never fall into extremism, be it religion, politics, even extreme sports. But it happens. I read an article just the week about the number of people being injured because they pushed their bodies too far. And that is as difficult to understand as why anyone would hate—that should probably be written, HATE—someone because they follow a different religion, a different political philosophy, or just because they are immigrants or refugees looking for a better life. And yet that kind of hatred not only exists, it is becoming more prevalent, more vocal, more violent. To the point the world is reeling, threatening to tumble out of control.
In the midst of all this, we need to look inward and ask ourselves if we too have gone to extremes, allbeit in a much less violent fashion. This is where the topic I'd previously scheduled for this week connects with the recent extremism seen in France and Egypt. Quite simply, extremism in any form - declaring there is only one way to do something, while rejecting every other approach - feeds upon itself, becoming blown out of proportion until what might have been a good idea becomes a be-all and end-all in itself, exaggerated to the point of absurdity, harmful to everyone not belonging to the "inner circle" of believers.
And, yes, this exaggeration can apply to something with such good intentions as "Political Correctness." My question is: Are we harming ourselves - and more importantly, our children - by being too Politically Correct?
Anyone who is a regular reader of this blog knows that I am about as far from being a fan of Donald Trump as it is possible to be. And yet he and I may actually agree on one thing: We have carried political correctness to an extreme. I began to suspect this over the last few months, but this week the issue seemed to crop up everywhere I looked. In the Yale Alumni Magazine, on the TV news, in several different articles in the newspaper, and even on this week's episode of Blue Bloods. And I recalled what I'd been told when I visited the FBI Academy in Quantico, Virginia. One of the men who spoke to us said that the FBI was having difficulty finding agents with "street smarts." Potential candidates seemed to have been chained inside with "play dates" as children instead of being out on the steets, learning to interact with other (read "more diverse") kids, and sitting at their keyboards as they grew older, instead of being out and about, discovering the rough and tumble world as it really is.
These are also the children who grew up in the "PC" era, who learned a well-scrubbed version of "Eeny, meeny, miny moe." Who never sang "Three Blind Mice" or the multitude of glorious music we used to call Negro Spirituals. Children who were taught to avoid the slightest hint of something that might be offensive, thus creating a generation where the slightest thing became offensive.* Creating lily-livered little darlings who cringe over even a hint of something that might offend someone, anyone, anywhere, any time. Lions and tigers and bears, oh my! These are the kids whose parents want every team to get a prize, the ones who want to do away with school report cards, etc., etc. This is not only sad, it is damaging. It turns potentially strong kids into overly sensitive whiners.
*I sympathized with the students at the University of Missouri until I learned the miniscule nature of the slights that began the ruckus. I mean, I remember the time when a governor stood guard at a university door to keep black students out. Now that was truly offensive. I remember those who died in the Civil Rights movement of the 60s. That too was appalling. But a bit of name-calling in a world where some people will always be stupid asses? Aw, come on, kids, that's just plain ridiculous. Suck it up and find better things to do with your life than complain over slights from idiots. In my day we were brought up on "Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words can never hurt me." (They did, of course, but we got the message. Some people should simply be ignored.)
Enough from me. Below is a Letter to the Editor from this month's Yale Alumni Magazine. (And, no, I did not go to Yale - the magazine is sent to me because my husband was a Yalie. At the time I applied for college, no women were allowed at Yale - revealing in light of recent events that Yalies may be smart but they're not always wise.)
Excerpt from a letter by Steen Kovacs, Yale '68:
Subject: the possible re-naming of Calhoun College (a residential unit at Yale)
"John C. Calhoun was not only a graduate of Yale, but one of the most distinguished political figures in American history. He was a congressman, senator, secretary of war, secretary of state, and vice-president of the United States. He was one of a triumvirate of brilliant political figures, along with Daniel Webster and Henry Clay. He advocated states' rights, limited government, and free trade. To reduce him to being the leading champion of slavery is to do him injustice.
"So what are we do to with such a historical figure? In fact, what are we to do with any historical figure? Take them out of their historical context? Shall we rename all of our many institutions bearing the names of Washington and Jefferson because they owned slaves?
Let's stop being so politically correct and so very, very wrong. Let us accept the wide range of humanity and recognize that we are situated in a particular historical reality.
I am fervently against renaming Calhoun College. But if, against all good reason and judgment, it is to be renamed, I sincerely hope it will carry the name of Cole Porter, the most brilliant American composer and songwriter of the twentieth century—who also happened to be a Yalie, gay, and disabled, having lost his leg in a riding accident. He's a hell of a lot more exciting than Abraham Pierson [another Yale college]. And he's politically correct!"
Grace Note: It's become clear this topic is too long for a single blog. Please join me next week for more comments from people who believe we have carried Politically Correct to an extreme where it is more of a detriment than a boost to living a more equitable life.
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I am thrilled to announce that Rebel Princess, Book One of the Blue Moon Rising series, has been accepted for publication by Kindle Scout. An extra thank-you to the readers of Mosaic Moments who took the time to read the excerpt and nominate RP. Since this is a new Amazon program, I am not certain how long it will be before the book is available, but I will most certainly let everyone know.
Each week The Orlando Sentinel publishes a list of the latest movies released on DVD - which I tear out and save until I'm making my next Netflix queue. (I've found some amazing movies that away.) Last night it was the Iranian film, About Elly. This would be an outstanding film in any location and any language, but the opportunity to see the many similarities between East-West cultures, as well as the admitted differences, is truly remarkable. The story is simple: three married couples with children (upper middle class, driving good cars) rent a beach house for the weekend, taking along a young couple for whom they are attempting a bit of matchmaking. And then something goes horribly wrong . . . If you can get your hands on this film, it will be well worth the effort. The characterizations alone are worth watching, including those of the children.
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