Time: Political Incorrectness Is Just a Strategy

Kareem Abdul-Jabbar

According to many politicians, America has a life-threatening illness more deadly than the Zika and Ebola viruses combined. Its name: political correctness. Since the early 1990s, politically correct has been the go-to phrase to whip up support from people who think social tolerance has become threatening, excessive or frivolous. The 2016 presidential campaign has been especially virulent about the issue.

“Political correctness is killing our country,”  opens in a new windowDonald Trump tweeted. Ben Carson, when he was briefly the leading Republican candidate, told Fox’s Bill O’Reilly that political correctness was “ opens in a new windowdestroying our nation.” Ted Cruz criticized President Obama’s policies toward ISIS by claiming that “ opens in a new windowpolitical correctness is killing people.” Marco Rubio complained that the reason he didn’t discuss his faith in public was that he “had been conditioned by political correctness.” Jeb Bush joined the choir with “ opens in a new windowThe political correctness of our country needs to be shattered.”

A majority of Americans agree with them. Nearly 60% of Americans said political correctness is a problem in our country. Those worried that we’ve gone too far in our pursuit of political correctness falls pretty solidly along party lines: twice as many Republicans as Democrats think it’s a problem. Only 18% think we aren’t politically correct enough.

This apocalyptic backlash against what seems like a relatively benign combination of good old-fashioned manners and simple sensitivity toward others stems from several factors, including a growing rage, fear and frustration among many Americans as the country continues to evolve into something different from what they are used to. Just as it did for their parents and grandparents. New technology can make us feel foolish, rapidly changing trends make us feel marginalized, and the eroding of our familiar and comforting traditions leaves us uncertain and uncomfortable. Every generation must deal with mourning the loss of its good ol’ days. It’s hard for many Americans to reconcile their romanticized fantasy of Main Street USA with today’s reality. The truth is that only 46% of children 18 and under live in a home with two heterosexual parents who are in their first marriage. In 1960, 73% did. But Mayberry isn’t coming back.

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