Friday, March 02, 2007

It’s Only Words

Well, it’s happening. Right here in the Land of the Free and the Home of the Brave, a land in which we don’t burn books and don’t ban vulgar lyrics in music or movies, we don’t ban pornographic material, we don’t ban intemperate or inflammatory speech, or depictions of graphic violence. We don’t ban things that may disgust a majority of Americans because freedom of expression is one of the hallmarks of our republic. But right here in America we are today talking about banning select words.

Even those of us who subscribe to the tenets of political correctness probably would oppose such actions on a free speech basis, but if we did somehow come to the decision to ban some words, you might think the words that would be banned would be the “f” word, or the “s” word, or certain words relating to sexual organs. But if you think that, you would be wrong.

We’ve had a sort of de facto ban on one word, the “n” word, for a long time. It isn’t a crime to say the “n” word, but people who say it often are punished for their indiscretion. Remember Michael Richards?

The “n” word is a bad word. No, let’s back up. It isn’t a bad word, not if you look at its origins. But it has a bad connotation, and it has been used for bad purposes. My opinion: I don’t use it; I don’t like it; and I don’t think other people, white or black, should use it, either.

As bad a principle as it is to punish people for some types of speech that is no worse than other types of speech, it is a far worse thing to outlaw certain words that are no worse than other words, but that is what has been proposed in Florida. There, a state senator has introduced a measure to prohibit calling people who enter the United States illegally “illegal aliens.”

"I personally find the word 'alien' offensive when applied to individuals, especially to children," said Sen. Frederica Wilson, a Miami Democrat. "An alien to me is someone from out of space." Fine. But Sen. Wilson, you do realize, don’t you, that the term “alien” has been used for decades to denote someone who is not a citizen of this country? And you should also know that that term is used in the language of legislation of the United States and in many states.

This is political correctness run amok, carried to the extreme. It is simply not acceptable to allow this measure to see the light of day, let alone allow it to become law. Someone needs to tell Ms. Wilson to remember that there is no right for anyone, citizens or aliens, to not be offended. Get used to it.

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