Five Recommendations for a New Politeness
For many of us, the first and most important lesson from our childhood is the Golden Rule. In a graduation speech at the University of Notre Dame, even President Obama made reference to it when he said, "For if there is one law that we can be most certain of, it is the law that binds people of all faiths and no faith together. It is no coincidence that it exists in Christianity and Judaism; in Islam and Hinduism; in Buddhism and humanism. It is, of course, the Golden Rule -- the call to treat one another as we wish to be treated."
This is a universal concept that anyone can understand and apply to their own life.
For a time, there was a concerted attempt to apply this reasoning to the language we use in everyday conversations. A close look at our language choices revealed that the prejudices within our society were being reflected and reinforced in common speech. It was pointed out that referring to women as girls was belittling, calling something gay because it appeared effeminate was offensive, and referring to recent immigrants as foreigners was disparaging. This positively motivated movement was eventually stymied by occasional excesses and pushback from the conservative and religious right.
Engaging in insensitive speech is unnecessary and should receive society's condemnation, but it is also unnecessary for speech to be made illegal or result in top down censorship; excesses that tend toward censorship are real concerns. Remember Nipplegate? The Federal Communications Commission tried to fine CBS for politically incorrect indecency when Janet Jackson's right breast was partially exposed during a Super Bowl half-time show. Instead of being an example of how our bodies aren't something to be ashamed of, the fine per indecency violation was hiked from $27,000 to $325,000 after this incident. Additionally, as this movement progressed, an idea gained traction that critique of religion was automatically offensive.
To read the rest of the Huffington Post article from AHA Executive Director Roy Speckhardt, click here.
(Image can be found here)