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Monday, December 28, 2015

The Liberal 'PC' Nanny Machine


  When ex-Mayor Nutter announced that it was his wish that he could ban Donald Trump from the City of Philadelphia, he was jumping on a bandwagon. This “stoning” brigade of numerous city mayors and prominent citizens were saying that because Trump’s views are annoying or “dangerous” he should be silenced forever. Nowhere was this boisterous campaign more evident than on Facebook, where many users announced that they would “unfriend” FB friends who find something about the man to admire.

    Okay, we know that Mayor Nutter’s wish to ban Trump from the city was just a wicked fantasy. It was also his last hurrah in terms of getting national attention. But cities, after all, are not medieval fortresses with walls. You can’t keep out people out with unpopular or outrageous views.  Philadelphia can’t even keep the homeless or repeat offender criminals outside city limits. Keeping Trump out of the city would just draw attention to his policies and win him more supporters.  

   Do I like Donald Trump? No, but that’s not the point. I would mock any mayor who made similar fantasy announcements about banning Bernie Sanders, Hillary Clinton or filmmaker Michael Moore from their cities. Banning people, ideas—and yes, books-- have never been a good idea, not by right wingers nor by the left wing “empathetically correct” crowd.  Empathetically correct, in case you don’t know, is the new buzzword for the old term, ‘politically correct,’ meaning the Nanny State folks who want to protect us from ourselves. The Nannies want to ban horse and buggies from New York’s Central Park, Big Gulp sodas from NYC and prohibit tobacco sales to military personnel. They have even combed the English language for unacceptable words and titles. A small sample: A jailer is now a custodial artist; a housewife is a domestic engineer; a jungle is a rain forest; a trailer park is a mobile home community; a broken home has become a dysfunctional family and a shy person is now conversationally selective.  And it gets worse…

   The growing polarization of American society based on politics is a worrisome development. Polarization based on political beliefs is ultimately artificial because status quo politics never lasts but is always replaced by new politics and ideas. Politicians, however loved or hated, come and go like a flashing meteorite racing across the sky. Furthermore, no one candidate ever has all the right answers to the issues of the day.  Political candidates are like sloppily made BLT sandwiches with different parts falling out during the eating process. One can love some of Hilary Clinton (the lettuce?), parts of Bernie Sanders (the mayo?), and, yes—shockingly-- even a small segment of Donald Trump (the bacon?) but rarely is the entire sandwich a supreme delight. How many decades now have most Americans been voting for “the lesser of two evils?”

       Today’s polarized political environment encourages us to vilify a candidate if one or two of their ideas impress most people as “obnoxious.” Trump is not necessarily evil because he questions President Obama’s policies on immigration or because some in the media accuse him of Islamophobia. Because Trump may be clueless about certain issues doesn’t mean that he is evil, just as the shameless lengths that Hilary Clinton will go to acquire votes doesn’t make her evil either.

      Republican candidate Marco Rubio may be obnoxious when he promises to roll back all Obama-generated pro LGBT legislation if elected, but calling him Satan or wishing him dead because of this one position is beyond the pale. This is not the way we do “business” in America. In many ways, we have become a nation of screaming hysterics. In a war of orthodoxies, nobody ever wins.

     Some Trump vilification Facebook postings wish the candidate dead while others depict him as a pig or as a men’s room urinal.  These postings have a virtual village stoning aspect to them in which FB friends can pick up rocks and have a whack. This fever “conspiracy” to vilify assumes the frenzy of a group orgy or witch burning but in the end these attacks are boring and repetitive.

   It’s the same way with the hyper, obsessive anti-Obama folks, whose hatred of the President borders on the pathological. It doesn’t matter what the president says or does, for these people he’s always wrong, always evil and always anti-American. The personal attacks even include the First Lady and the Obama children.  How whole groups of people can live and breathe hatred like this, day in and day out, is a mystery to me. 

   In the last mayoral election—a shocking admission! -- I voted for the Republican candidate because I resented the Democratic machine control of Philadelphia. Municipal elections in the Quaker City tend to be farcical because Democrats always win, whether the Democrat’s name is Jim Kenney, Ira Einhorn, sex columnist Dan Savage, Jihad Jane or Mr. Corrupt Parking Authority. 

     The automatic canceling out of any Philadelphia Republican no matter how honorable he or she may be, decade after decade, cannot be good for the city. Obsessive one Party voting gives one political party too much power and a fat “chewing” cushion besides. I voted for the GOP candidate as a symbolic protest even though I like many of Kenney’s ideas.

        My one big “left wing” reservation is the rising tendency in that camp to be intolerant of opposing views, which brings us back to the ‘banning’ question.

      Conservatives on Facebook rarely if ever advocate unfriending ‘friends’ who advocate liberal positions or who support candidates that inspire conservative wrath.  Today the big censors of public thought and language are liberals. Witness how once common (and acceptable) terms like ‘illegal immigrant’ and ‘illegal aliens’ have been replaced by benign (and soft) labels terms like undocumented worker, or in some cases just immigrant, which leaves out the most important part: legal or illegal.
   Banning ideas and books used to come from puritanical, right wing quarters. In the modern age there was the banning of James Joyce’s Ulysses, one of the greatest novels ever written. At various times in the 1920s the book was banned in the United States, Ireland, Canada and England because it was thought to be obscene.

   Right wing puritans also banned Henry Miller’s Tropic of Cancer, published by Grove Press in 1961, the story of Miller’s life in Paris as a struggling scribe. Miller wrote about sexual love in explicit terms and this led to obscenity trials and police raids on bookstores.

   William Burroughs’ Naked Lunch caused a sensation when it was published by Olympia Press in 1959. The novel, about drug use and homosexuality, was banned in Boston and Los Angeles.  
   Right wing puritans challenged Anne Frank’s The Diary of a Young Girl, about a Jewish family hiding from Nazis in the Netherlands, because of the book’s sexually explicit passages.

   Conservative puritans in Culver City, California banned Little Red Riding Hood from schools because some officials were irked that Mrs. Hood was shown carrying around a bottle of wine in her basket. As one Culver City educator complained, “Showing the grandmother who has consumed half a bottle of wine with a red nose is not a lesson we want to teach.”  

    In New Hampshire, conservative school puritans banned William Shakespeare’s Twelfth Night because it was about a girl who disguises herself as a page (boy) and then falls in love with her male employer. The cross-dressing and the faux same sex romance in the story made school officials uneasy.
   Right wing ideologue puritans in a small California town banned Edgar Rice Burroughs’ Tarzan of the Apes series because Jane and Tarzan were not married. Imagine that!

    Conservatives in one North Carolina County banned Ralph Ellison’s Invisible Man, which deals with the ugliness of racial discrimination because one parent of a student in the County wrote a 12-page protest. The parent hated the book because of its sexual content, its “lack of innocence,” and because it was written in the first person and seemed “too real.”
   Liberal puritans banned Mark Twain’s The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, published in 1885, at a Quaker school in Montgomery County because a small handful of students complained that the use of the ‘N’ word throughout the text made them feel “uncomfortable.” The book is about the friendship of a young white boy with an older black man.  The use of the word ‘uncomfortable’ is interesting here. Education and learning are supposed to make students feel uncomfortable because that’s what mental growth involves. To be comfortable is to stagnate. If education and learning is too comfortable, it’s not doing its job.

   The “empathetically correct,’ go to great lengths to protect students from their own individual sensitivities. This is why speakers with controversial views can be banned from college campuses, as if the students were not mentally equipped to challenge these ideas or “process” them.  Sometimes when students threaten violence at these speaking events the college cancels the speaker out of fear and intimidation.  Ann Coulter, author of Adios America, The Left’s Plan to Turn America into a Third World Hellhole, was banned from speaking at the University of Toronto because of angry student protests that started to form. So much for engaging dialogue and an intelligent exchange of ideas!
      Novels like JD Salinger’s The Catcher in the Rye and Harper Lee’s To Kill a Mockingbird are being replaced in liberal schools by so called informational texts.” Additionally, 70 percent of the books proscribed to students now tend to be non-fiction. One educator complained that “Imaginative reading and creativity is going out of English classes.”

     Neil Postman, in citing George Orwell’s 1984, wrote, 

 Orwell warns that we will be overcome by an externally imposed oppression. But in Aldous Huxley's Brave New World vision, no Big Brother is required to deprive people of their autonomy, maturity and history. As he saw it, people will come to love their oppression, to adore the technologies that undo their capacities to think.
  If we lose the capacity to think, we’re through as a culture—and a nation.