I was a part of the times and the people who created the concept of “politically correct.”
We thought we were helping build a more loving and humane world.
At the time, our outrage against the many sins of our government and society, not least of which was the death and destruction caused by the Viet Nam war—as well as other “imperialist” actions around the globe by our military and secret agencies—and by racism and sexism and homophobia, not only throughout the USA, but promoted around the globe by our government and corporate entities, whether deliberately or just thoughtlessly.
My heroes back then quickly changed from Bogart and Bacall and Cagney and Jackie Robinson (see my Jackie Robinson post for a discussion in the comments section between “Doodle” and me that spurred this post) to Malcolm X and Germaine Greer and Mao and Che.
Because I was impatient with the slowness of progress on many of the issues that were so important to me, I quickly moved from my basically humanist beliefs and behavior to supporting and even acting out on more violent attempts to overthrow the status quo and create—as I always thought Che said, but now think it actually may have been a theorist whose work was a major influence on me, Carl Oglesby—“a world where love is more possible.”
The result of my beliefs and actions at the time, when joined with other like-minded souls, was often catastrophic in terms of death and destruction inadvertently caused by our actions, or just politically, as in contributing to getting more right wing politicians elected in backlashes (ala Nixon et. al.) or discrediting our honorable goals and intentions with dishonorable actions, including cannibalistic factionalism that eventually destroyed one of the most popularly supported mass movements in our history (that is to say, over a few short years the popular sentiments went from accepting the status quo racism to supporting an end to institutional and “legal” segregation and discrimination, as well as from support of the war in Viet Nam and elsewhere (e.g. Cambodia) to a demand for an end to it).
One of the major political problems of more recent years, is politicians still acting out of the rivalries and battles of the mid-20th century, instead of where we are now. Many right-wingers want to undo the gains made in the 1960s, which they often see as losses, and in fact they have succeeded in doing just that in sometimes incredibly damaging ways (invasions of privacy, stricter laws and sentences leading to more people (especially young black men) in prison for longer periods, criminalization of private acts and minor drugs and support of the corporatization of America leading to more environmental harm, more political dependency on corporate money, etc. etc.).
Including their present attempt to win the Iraqi war in the face of so much home front opposition to continuing it, because (see McCain, Cheney, W., et. al.) we “lost” Viet Nam, in their perspective, by not staying long enough or expending even more lives and money and energy and political capital, not because it is impossible for outsiders to defeat a homegrown insurgency defending their own country with anything less than totalitarian force and execution and continued repression,
Or because they don’t mind using that kind of force, especially with a voluntary military and a lot of the worst stuff contracted out to private corporations. One of the lessons they obviously learned from Viet Nam was that a citizen army made up of draftees is unlikely to acquiesce as easily to an unjust war and undemocratic methods, so they got rid of the draft.
And in so doing ensured that any protests would be less personally based and therefore less passionate and consistent and unrelenting (as opposed to the 1960s).
But I’m getting off the subject, my main point is that we can’t let those old battles from half a century ago get in the way of finding new methods to change the current course of events.
I think if we hang on to black and white distinctions anywhere, we are not only limiting the chance to move forward but are missing out on the kind of victory we almost had back in those days but by the time we had a majority of the citizens of this country on our side, our side was so plagued with political correctness and litmus tests for who was righteous enough to be on our side that the whole thing fizzled out on the political front and was co opted instead by the corporate powers who turned our sacrifices and creative bravery into fashion statements and consumer preferences.
In other words, we end up in a less violent, but no less divisive, version of who’s a Sunni and who’s a Shiite (or in the case of my people, who’s Catholic and who’s a “Prot”).
There are gradations across the political spectrum—not us and them or black and white or right wing and left wing (despite my own often over simplified dismissal of “right wingers”)—and to condemn someone because of who they voted for in the last election, or what aspects of conservative political perspective they agree with or are opposed to etc. is a waste of time in the end.
The idea, from my perspective, is to work for, fight for, promote the causes I believe in as strongly as possible, while accepting that some people will disagree with some or all of my beliefs. As the “gay” “surrealist” American poet Charles Henri Ford once wrote:
“When you split the world in two,/one half lives, the other dies for you.”