Jim Taylor's Columns - 'Soft Edges' and 'Sharp Edges'

To make Comments write directly to Jim at jimt@quixotic.ca

 

Published on Sunday, November 25, 2018

Think twice before saying something offensive

Harjit Sajjan is a Sikh, a man with brown skin, a full beard, and a turban. He’s also Canada’s Defence Minister.

            An unnamed member of Canada’s  Conservative Party posted a Facebook message with a photo of Sajjan and the caption, “This is what happens when you have a cabinet based on affirmative action.”

            I haven’t heard much opposition to affirmative action recently. (Clearly, I move in different circles from the person who posted the message.)

            Affirmative action is a process for righting past wrongs. For admitting more Black or indigenous students to universities, because they were previously discriminated against. For hiring more visible minorities on police forces. For promoting more women to management positions.

            Unfortunately, affirmative action can’t help penalizing someone else. I remember my own anger when a friend told me not to bother applying for a position at the CBC for which I was well qualified, “because we’re only hiring women as announcers these days.”

            Forty years later, all the broadcasting networks have women announcers. And program hosts. Producers and directors too.  There’s no need for affirmative action in that field anymore.

 

Unequal treatment, still

            The same cannot be said for politics. So when newly elected Prime Minister Justin Trudeau announced in 2015 that his cabinet would be 50 per cent female, there was shock. Fear that cabinet members would be appointed for their gender, not their competence.

            In fact, Trudeau’s affirmative action didn’t stop with gender equality. He also included non-Caucasians in his cabinet. Among them, Harjit Sajjan, a veteran of the war in Afghanistan.

            The Conservative party’s Facebook post reveals that some of its members still object to affirmative action. In this case, on a racial basis.

            The writer, identified in the local paper only as a “young man,” apologized profusely. He told the paper, “I’m begging you, don’t publish my name, but let me tell my side of the story.”

            His side suggests that he had a legitimate beef against Sajjan’s federal Defence Department – a $337,000 Canadian Forces flight to Europe on which VIP’s on board were allegedly drunk and abusive to flight attendants. But by phrasing his complaint as a slur against an individual of another race and religion, the writer brought down on himself the wrath of the politically correct.

            “I didn’t intend it to be racist,” the man told the newspaper, “but in hindsight I can see how people saw it as racist.”

 

Politically correct language

            Let me be perfectly clear on this – I endorse politically correct language. I do not consider it an infringement of free speech.

            I did not always feel that way. At one time, I ridiculed inclusive language. I even wrote a Christmas play in which Joseph came racing on stage, shouting, “Hallelujah! Unto us a child is born! It’s a girl!”

            But then my business partner, Ralph Milton, leaned on me. And I discovered that the problem with inclusive language was not that it was wrong, or restrictive. The problem was the clumsiness of most people’s efforts to avoid masculine images and pronouns.

            For years, Ralph and I published books that were totally gender neutral. No awkward his-or-hers, he/she, “person-hole” or “person-kind” constructions. No references God as “Him” or to the church as “She.”

            Then a woman congratulated Ralph on “not using that silly inclusive language.” It was so inclusive, it had become invisible.

 

Second thoughts before first words

            Politically correct language is, in fact, a process for learning to think differently. As long as people can get away with referring to other humans as niggers, gooks, or broads, they will continue to hold negative images of those individuals.

            Changing their words won’t change those mental images. But every time someone has to stop and think before uttering a potentially offensive description, that person has to recognize how those words might offend.

            Granted, the politically-correct-language police can themselves be offensive. Self-righteous, even. But like affirmative action, they serve a short-term purpose. Once racist and sexist terms become unacceptable, the language police are no longer needed.

            So I argue that the man who posted the Facebook remark about Harjit Sajjan deserved the abuse heaped on his posting. He may not like Sajjan. He may distrust Sajjan. He may not have thought his words overstepped any bounds. He may even have thought he was being clever.

            But the next time he’s tempted to show other Conservatives how smart and sassy he can be, he will probably think twice. And will choose his words more carefully.

            And that’s the sole purpose of political correctness.

*******************************************************

Copyright © 2018 by Jim Taylor. Non-profit use in congregations and study groups encouraged; links from other blogs welcomed; all other rights reserved.

                       To send comments, to subscribe, or to unsubscribe, write jimt@quixotic.ca

********************************************************

 

YOUR TURN

 

Last week I borrowed some lines from John Milton to connect with the loss of the town of Paradise to California forest fires. 

 

Bob Rollwagen joined me in blaming humans for climate change: “What has happened in Paradise, California will bring a new respect to the meaning of “evacuation notice” for those that feel they can fight nature on their own. The pictures are horrific. Total incineration. Yes, they will rebuild. But will they have learned anything or will they just rebuild and continue to believe the myth that humans did not create this catastrophe, while creating many more. Each one seems to be getting bigger. This is an historic trend.”

 

At one point, I called the story of Eden, which portrays the early earth as paradise, “fictional.” Dave Buckna took exception: “To say the story of the Garden of Eden is ‘fictional’ is your belief [but] there are many others who believe the story of the Garden of Eden actually happened.”

 

Dave also dared me to publish an excerpt from a speech by Frank Peretti mocking evolution: “The first thing you need to know, boys and girls, above all else, is that 'You are an accident!'. You have absolutely no reason for being here! There is no meaning, no purpose to your life! You're nothing but a meaningless conglomeration of molecules that came together purely by chance billions of years ago! All the dust and the gas and the galaxy floated around for who knows how long, and they bumped into each other and they said, 'I know. Let's be organic!' So they became organic. And they became little, little gooey, slimey things, you know, swimming around in the primordial soup, and they finally grew little feet, and they crawled up on the land, and they grew fur and feathers and became higher forms of life, and finally became, you know, a monkey, then the monkey developed into an ape, then the ape decided to shave, so he shaved, and became what you are today! It's from goo to you by way of the zoo! As such we really don't have any reason for being here. Your existence is pointless. The universe won't mind a bit when you die. And when you die, you just become so much compost.”

 

But Steve Roney agreed with me about the Garden of Eden: “It seems to me obvious that this is actually a description of early childhood. When we are very small, the world as we experience it is pretty wonderful. This is why the ‘original sin’ applies to each one of us: we all committed it.

            “But it is also then perfectly reasonable to project the scene back in time to human beginnings. This is a way to say it is universal and inherent in the human condition.

            “And it must also be faithful to the reality. At some time, somewhere, it must have happened for the first time. And when it did, all the circumstances would have been the same.”

 

Doug Giles had comments to add about my Remembrance Day column, two weeks ago: “Once again Jim, you make excellent points. Both my parents and my grandparents fought in those two great wars. My grandfather was gassed in the trenches and lost the use of his left arm in WWI. My father was wounded in Sicily in WWII. That probably saved his life because the wound won him a ticket back to England. These men came back with legs and arms missing and were just expected to get on with life. Those back home had to adjust to the new reality. My mother was a riveter. Her husband came back damaged. Post traumatic stress disorder wasn't really recognized until the Vietnam war. 

            “I grew up in a world where artificial limbs were common and these men and women just had to get on with life. I can't even imagine what it was like for those living in the destroyed cities of Europe and Asia. The war was an ever-present reality for my parents and their friends. It affected how they saw the world and to a lesser extent how I see the world. 

            “I imagine community PTSD can't even begin to be overcome until the second or third generation.”

 

******************************************

 

TECHNICAL STUFF

 

If you want to comment on something, write me at jimt@quixotic.ca. Or just hit the ‘Reply’ button.

                       To subscribe or unsubscribe, send me an e-mail message at the address above. Or subscribe electronically by sending a blank e-mail (no message) to sharpedges-subscribe@lists.quixotic.ca. Similarly, you can un-subscribe at sharpedges-unsubscribe@lists.quixotic.ca.

                       You can now access current columns and seven years of archives at http://quixotic.ca

                       I write a second column each Wednesday, called Soft Edges, which deals somewhat more gently with issues of life and faith. To sign up for Soft Edges, write to me directly at the address above, or send a blank e-mail to softedges-subscribe@lists.quixotic.ca

                       And for those of you who like poetry, I’ve started a webpage http://quixotic.ca/My-Poetrywhere I post (occasionally, when I feel inspired) poems that I have written. If you’d like to receive notifications about new poems, write me at jimt@quixotic.ca, or subscribe yourself to the list by sending a blankemail (no message) to poetry-subscribe@lists.quixotic.ca(If it doesn’t work, please let me know.)

 

********************************************

 

PROMOTION STUFF…

To use the links in this section, you’ll have to insert the necessary symbols. (This is to circumvent filters that think too many links constitute spam.)

                       Ralph Milton’s latest project is a kind of Festival of Faith, a retelling of key biblical stories by skilled storytellers like Linnea Good and Donald Schmidt, designed to get people talking about their own faith experience. It’s a series of videos available on Youtube. I suggest you start with his introductory section: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7u6qRclYAa8

                       Ralph’s “Sing Hallelujah” -- the world’s first video hymnal -- is still available. It consists of 100 popular hymns, both new and old, on five DVDs that can be played using a standard DVD player and TV screen, for use in congregations who lack skilled musicians to play piano or organ. More details at wwwDOTsinghallelujahDOTca

                       Wayne Irwin's “Churchweb Canada,” an inexpensive service for any congregation wanting to develop a web presence, with free consultation. <http://wwwDOTchurchwebcanadaDOTca>

                       I recommend Isabel Gibson’s thoughtful and well-written blog, wwwDOTtraditionaliconoclastDOTcom

                       Alva Wood’s satiric stories about incompetent bureaucrats and prejudiced attitudes in a small town -- not particularly religious, but fun; alvawoodATgmailDOTcom to get onto her mailing list.

                       Tom Watson writes a weekly blog called “The View from Grandpa Tom’s Balcony” -- ruminations on various subjects, and feedback from Tom’s readers. Write him at tomwatsoATgmailDOTcom or twatsonATsentexDOTnet

 

 


Comments (0)Number of views (21)
Print

Tags

#MeToo 150th birthday 1954 1972 3G abduction abortion Abrams abuse addiction Addis Ababa adoption Adrian Dix affirmative action aging Ahriman Ahura Mazda airport killings albinism albinos Alexa algorithms Allegations Almighty Almighty God ALS alt-right altruism Amherst Andrea Constant Andrew Copeland Taylor anniversaries antidote Ants aphrodisiac App Store Archives armistice artifacts astronomy atonement atropine Attawapiscat attraction audits authorities autism automation autumn B.C. election B.C. Health Ministry baby Bach baggage Bahai Banda banning books Barabbas barbers Bashar al Assad BC BC Conference Beans bears Beethoven beginnings behaviour belief systems beliefs benefits Bernardo Bible biblical sex birth birthday birthdays Blackmore blood blood donors body Bohr bolide Bolivia Bolivian women bombings books border patrol both/and bottom up Bountiful Brahms brains Brazil breath breathe broken bubbles Buddha Buddhism Bulkley bulldozers bullets bullying butterflies butterfly Calendar California Cambridge Analytica. Facebook cameras Canada Canada Day Canadian Blood services Canal Flats Canute caregivers caring Carnaval. Mardi Gras carousel cars Carter Commission cats cave CBC Cecil the lion. Zanda CF chance change Charlie Gard Charlottesville Charter of Compassion Checklists checkups chemical weapons Child Advocacy Centre child trafficking chivalry chocolates choice choices choirs Christian Christianity Christine Blasey Ford Christmas Christmas gathering church churches circle of life Clarissa Pinkola Estés cliffhanger climate change clocks close votes coastal tribes coffee collaboration colonial mindset colonies Colten Boushie Columbia River Columbia River Treaty communication Communion community complexity composers conclusions Confederacy Confederate statues Confirmation confusion Congo Conrad Black consciousness consensual consent Conservative Party contraception Conversations coral Cornwallis Cosby Cougars courtesy courts CPP CRA creation creche Creston crime criminal crucifixion Cultural appropriation cuneiform Curie curling cyberbullying Cystic Fibrosis Dalai Lama Dan Rather Danforth dark matter darkness Darren Osburne Darwin data mining daughter David David Suzuki dead zone deaf death decision Delhi Dementia democracy denial Denny's Depression Descartes despair determinism Devin Kelley dinosaurs dissent diversity division divorce dog dogs dominance Donald Trump Donna Sinclair Dr. Seuss dreaming dreams Drugs dying Dylan Thomas Earth Day Easter Ebola eclipse economics Eden editing Edwards-Sawatzky Egypt eight-track tapes Einstein either/or email embassy emergent emotions English epiphany epitaph Esteban Santiago eternal life eternity ethics Ethiopia Eucharist eulogy evacuation evacuation orders Eve Evelyn Glennie Every Note Played evil Evolution expectations experiment extinctions extremes extremism eye for an eye Eyes Facebook faith False Creek fascist fear Fedex feel Fentanyl figure skating Fire fireball fires First Nations flirting flooding floods floppy disks flow charts flowers fluency flying Folk sayings forensic Forest fires forests forgiving Four Pests campaign franchises free free speech free will freedom friend friendships fruit fundamentalism future Gaia games Garrison Keillor Geese Gerald Stanley Gerard Manley Hopkins Ghomeshi girls global economy global warming go north God gods Golden Rule good good intentions goodness Google Play government Governor General grammar gravity Great Barrier Reef greatest story green Green Eggs Green Party Gretta Vosper Grinch Group of seven growth guilt guns Habits haircuts Haiti Hal Niedzviecki harassment Harjit Sajjan harmony Hawaii health health plans hearing hearts heat heaven Hell helping heroes heroin Higher Porpoise highway Hillary Clinton Hinduism history Homulka Honduras honesty hope Horgan Horton hospitality houseflies houses human rights hurricane ICBMs ice dance identity IMF imitation immigrants immortality immuno-globulin inclusive language income taxes independence India individualism inertia Infinity injustice intelligence intervention IPCC irreverence Isaac Watts ISIS Islam Jack McCarthy Jagmeet Singh James Shaw Jr. Jean Piaget Jebusites Jeff Sessions Jerusalem Jessica Farrar Jessie Oliver Jesus John A MacDonald Johnny Mercer joining Jonathan Haidt Jonathan Kay Joni Mitchell Jordan Peterson Joseph judgement judges Julie Payette jury justice Justin Trudeau Kaepernick Karen Armstrong Kaunda Kavanaugh Keaton Jones Kelly Pocha Kelowna Ken Lam Kick the can Kilauea killing Kim Jong Un Kim Jong-Un Kimberley Jones Kinder-Morgan Kinsbury mosque Kiribati Kissinger Kitimat kneel knitting knowing God knowledge Kootenay Kootenay Lake Kootenays Korean War kryptonite Kurt Weill Lake Country lakes Language Las Vegas law laws leadership learning leaves Lent Leonard Cohen Leroy Anderson Lethbridge letter letters to the editor leukemia Liberal lies life light lightning Linda Newkirk Lionel Shriver Lions Gate Bridge Lisa Genova listening little hens livestreamed video Lizard Brain LNG lobotomy logic lone wolf looking ahead looking back Lorax Lord Cornwallis Lord's Prayer Losses Lovelock
Copyright 2018 by Jim Taylor  |  Powered by: Churchweb Canada