A few months back, someone close to me asked if I ever had to be politically correct while I was writing. This person is not political, but when pressed into such conversations is clearly conservative of mindset—though I admit I’m not sure they understand why or, really, what it means.
Regardless, this question is tied into the last in the long line of chaos Donald Trump is creating, and is captured in this tweet from Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez.
Until Republican officials denounce yesterday’s explicitly racist statements (which should be easy!), we sadly have no choice but to assume they condone it.
It is extremely disturbing that the *entire* GOP caucus is silent. Is this their agenda? https://t.co/NXIUiPAPls
— Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (@AOC) July 15, 2019
The problem here, of course, is that Donald Trump and the people who believe in him don’t consider what he’s saying to be racist at all. This is at the core of why I say Trump is the second coming of Archie Bunker. Archie, despite oozing racism of both the personal and institutional kind, never believed he had a racist bone in his body.
The question “do I ever have to be politically correct while I’m writing,” is tied up in this because the question basically asks “do you ever NOT put forward a point of view because you think it’s too … controversial?” And in this case, “controversial” means racist. In other words, the question is “do you ever avoid putting views into your work merely because you think that would out you as a racist?” That’s not how the person who questioned me would characterize it, but that’s what the question really is. Do you ever feel constrained from putting forward a view because then people will think you are (in this case) racist?
They didn’t ask if I write about race (which on occasion I do). They didn’t ask if I write about gender (which also, to some degree, I do, though it’s probably more fair to say I write from different viewpoints of other genders more than I do “about” gender). They didn’t ask if I feel awkward when I write from political views that are not mine (which I do), or how I get over that hump. They asked if I ever had to be politically correct, which, when you really think about it, is something very personal.
The difference between what Trump (and the Republicans who are supporting him) is doing now and what the person who asked me this question was doing then is that Trump (and those same Republicans) understand the dynamic. They understand what the argument is about. I am 100% certain that the person who asked me this question has not thought it through to the point I’m bringing it. When Trump writes “go back to where you came from,” he knows he’s telling people who follow him that this is not only “acceptable” (read as legal per 1st amendment rights) but is morally correct. When Republicans come to support Trump again (as they’ve proven time and time again they will), they are agreeing with him.
This is the root of the problem—the fundamental aspect of what the next election is about. Because the issue is not really the words, right? The issue is that the words come with an entire framework of thinking. If it’s acceptable to tell someone to go back where they came from, it’s acceptable to round them up and send them back.
When the writers in “All in the Family” put words in Archie Bunker’s mouth, they are doing it in a way that exposes these ideas for the painful things they are. When Carol O’Connor (who carried personal views that were left of center) voices them so brilliantly, he’s asking people to see through him and maybe find a bit of themselves there.
When Trump does it, though, he’s saying Archie was actually right. And when Republicans support him, they are agreeing.
Bringing up the issue of “Political Correctness” pretty much always requires a nod to Neil Gaiman’s amazingly wonderful take on the subject.