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AMEND CORNER: Politically correct or just good manners?

From time to time, I receive feedback about this thing I do for the Tribune.

Most of the feedback is positive. It is delivered face to face and comes from people who like what I write, agree with what I say, or both.

Less often, I receive negative feedback, which usually arrives via email, but occasionally is delivered by the U.S. Postal Service, either as a personal letter or a letter to the editor. Such letters are usually longer — two or more typed pages — than positive comments are.

I’m not bragging about receiving more positive feedback than negative. I don’t think it means I’m a terrific columnist or anything like that, and I’m positive it doesn’t mean more Tribune readers agree with me than don’t. I’ve lived in northwest Wyoming since I was 6 and I know that, in a number of ways, especially politically, I’m out of step with most Wyomingites.

Actually, I only bring it up because I ran across an old article about the last election that talked about the evils of “political correctness.” It reminded me that some months ago, a critic of my column told me I take the positions I do based not on my principles, but as an effort to attach myself to elite liberal people that I want to be my friends.

In other words, the reader was telling me I was being politically correct, and it wasn’t meant as a compliment.

This politically correct thing has intrigued me for some time. It’s a way of telling you that you have no principles. You have no backbone, either, and you don’t think for yourself. Instead, you take positions you don’t actually agree with and express them in ways that please important people and make them like you.

Denunciations of political correctness got a real workout in the last presidential election. Some of the crowd of Republicans that wanted to be the party’s candidates even claimed that political correctness had to be stamped out or the U.S. would crash into oblivion. According to those Republicans, political correctness was responsible for all the ills in the world — from poor test scores in Chicago public schools to ISIS atrocities in Iraq. They said that we had better shape up, or we will be inundated with terrorists and our entire economy will be boxed up and shipped to China.

This warning and other accusations of political correctness invariably come from a conservative person and are directed at someone who is more liberal. I don’t recall anyone I would call liberal accuse a conservative of being politically correct.

That doesn’t make sense, because from my experience I think being politically correct can go either way, and a conservative certainly can be politically correct. After all, if I was a spineless person trying to impress elite people in Wyoming, I certainly wouldn’t get there by talking like Bernie Sanders. Heck no. I’d be quoting the talking heads on Fox News at every opportunity.

In the end, my feeling is that what some denounce as politically correct is simply good manners. It involves using tact when communicating with others and avoiding name-calling as well as rude, profane or obscene language. Or you could call it being tactful. If you want to communicate effectively and achieve reasonable results, you’ll do better with tact than with telling people who disagree with you they are spineless.

As for this column I write, I can honestly say that I don’t write it to please anyone but myself. Thanks to my bosses at that office downtown, I am able to express my opinions freely, and I plan to continue to do so. 

Next time, I think I’ll write about who the elite people I’m supposed to be courting are.

‘Til then, remember I welcome feedback, especially from those who think I’m trying to be politically correct.

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