I’m noticing a pattern in the responses, which I find that… interesting. Especially since the reaction so far stems from my use of the phrase “political correctness,” which as I very clearly stated in the article, I think has become overly laden with baggage and needs to be retired.
What I very firmly believe is that this is a cultural fight more than a legislative fight. We have a duty as a culture, which more or less means a duty as individuals, to avoid intolerant behaviors and actions. That means that what we do individually is more important than what gets legislated, which is why my call to action in the article is primarily couched in personal terms.
That being said, it absolutely has become a policy fight and trying to pretend like it shouldn’t be doesn’t help anyone. There are certain situations where use of hate speech simply isn’t appropriate, isn’t covered by the 1st Amendment, and is active restricted (by corporate policy if nothing else). And there are certain things we aren’t allowed to say on television, and so on, and so forth. So I really think that the point is that it’s a grey area discussion. We have apparently decided as a society that sometimes words are harm. And that’s absolutely appropriate, from my point of view, because words tend to create and reinforce reality.
Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words get you to Kristallnacht. So we should probably be careful. I’m entirely in agreement that we have free speech laws for a very important reason — offense isn’t the same thing as harm (which was one of my first points in the article). And I’m entirely in agreement that this isn’t something we should engage in lightly — even insofar as I think this is primarily a cultural discussion, not a legislative one. But that’s not to say we should sit back and let the bigots, haters, Nazis, Klan members, and so on have it all their way without challenge, which speaks to my call to action at the end of the article.
And with that being said, I think it’s absolutely vital that we continue to have this discussion as a society — grey areas are grey because we don’t have easy answers. I don’t expect everyone to agree with me on this subject, I’d be shocked if they did, and if that state of affairs ever actually happened I’d be terrified because the planet had been invaded by Pod People or something. The discussion is as much, or more important than, our actual actions with regard to (in)tolerance, because the discussion sets the stage for what we consider valid calls to action.