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L.A. Beat

Political correctness strikes again

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Several months ago I wrote an article regarding political correctness in Canada. That little ramble was linked to some recent controversy generated by the lyrics of an old 1980's Dire Straits song.
Those lyrics were essentially banned from eastern Canadian radio forever for they contained the offensive term 'faggot'. The term, if you read the actual lyrics, is used in a sarcastic way to describe a rock star playing guitar on the MTV, as seen from the perspective of the lyrical character: a blue collar, low-income delivery man.
The essence of that article was that censorship is a very slippery slope, one that seems to be changed or altered every several years as our cultural values change and our political 'sensitivity' becomes ever more acute.
The reason I'm revisiting censorship and political correctness one more time, is because to a certain extent the issue has arisen again in Lethbridge last week.
In case you have not heard already, it was announced this month that from this point forward, all elected members of the Lethbridge City Council will be hereby forever known as Councillors, with their former name, Aldermen - being dropped for a more gender-neutral term.

See link:
Now before I continue, I think I understand the issue here. Alderman has the -man suffix, much like stewardess once had the -ess. We no longer have priestesses and governesses; just priests and governors. Meanwhile all garbagemen are now known as Sanitation Workers. Christmas trees were almost completely known as Holiday Trees on local signage last year.

In our Canadian world, we no longer have crippled people, coloured people, handicapped people or even aboriginals. And I get it, I do. We're all equals on this big blue planet and we deserve to be treated as such. I agree wholeheartedly.

 I'd like you to keep in mind that I'm just your basic, regular, low-income, caucasian Canadian guy; in his early 30's, living in Lethbridge, Alberta. What you are about to read is simply my opinion, and though I certainly don't wish to offend, I certainly wouldn't mind if this little column managed to make a few people think about the strange little ways that our Canadian culture is changing around us. Political correctness is slowly manipulating the nature of words, the historical roots of the words themselves and eventually the ways that we see fit to use them. I realize bullying takes place in society to many different degrees, for many different reasons. So make no mistake, I believe that all races, all creeds, all religions, all genders - ARE and SHOULD be treated equally.

But I wonder what's happening to our somewhat legendary Canadian sense of humour - that humble, self-deprecating ability to make fun of ourselves and shrug off what is essentially an inconsequential item of little import.
I don't wish to seem insensitive and I don't want to start a war of words. Yet when my imagination gets rolling and I attempt to picture a perfectly PC nation;  I'm not sure if it's truly any better, or any worse than what we've been dealing with in our yesterdays, todays, and most likely our tomorrows.
Imagine what our Canadian national anthem would sound like were it to be 100 per cent politically correct? If I'm not mistaken, there could be some issues there.

For example: "Our home and native land".
It was uhhhh ... I hate to say it ... someone else's first. We showed up on someone else's home and native land and then basically just took over.
"In all thy son's command."
Why do only the sons get to command? I've seen all sorts of super-awesome women rule, lead, dominate and essentially kick major butt. This should likely read sons and daughters command, don't ya think?

"The true north strong and free."Is this in fact accurate? Are we talkin' magnetic north here? Any Canadians who immigrated from Greenland, Siberia, Northern China.... did they come from a less true North? Meanwhile, the word 'strong' could be seen as a jibe against the weak, while the word 'free' could be construed as offensive to those Canadians currently serving time behind bars or employed in some kind of slave labour situation; an illegal factory worker perhaps.
I won't even get started on the word 'wide'. I know a lot of somewhat, 'larger' individuals that would likely be very irritated to be described as wide. Perhaps we should consider removing words like 'wide' from our anthem in the future, to guarantee we don't offend anyone with anything in any way at any time. Consider that sentence.

And while I am aware I could be opening Pandora's box', what of the line "God Keep Our Land"? That line conjures up questions of 'which God,' of 'whose God', and makes me wonder if we're somehow forcing our 'Canadian' ideal of God on others. If so, then our 'Canadian' God must be somehow inherently better than their God … but I digress. I have several Atheist friends and over late night conversations, talk of this kind has led to heated debate and inspired animosity. I've learned one friend would be okay if that line of our national anthem were to be replaced or removed completely. The other friend eventually stated he would defend that line's remaining fixed within the national anthem for as long as he lived in Canada, and was prepared to defend that line's right to be included with his fists if he had to. Around this point in the conversation we opted to break for a smoke and averted potential disaster.

I could go on I think. But I would hope by this point my message, albeit slightly strange and likely quite forgettable, might have gotten through. The truth is, you could call me a skinny little four-eyed white boy with some possible mental health issues and I'd roll with it. You could point at me accusingly and call me a weirdo, a dork, a nerd, etc. (I'm not sure what the popular insults are this year, being quite far removed from any large social loop.)  
All I know, is if the political correctness trend continues getting more narrow; more sharp and specific; we just may have to take the term 'man' out of 'General Humanities'; and likewise remove it from the "Woman's Studies" faculty.
I'm really all for loving each other, respecting each other and treating each with compassion and dignity. I just don't think we have to be so bloody serious about it all the time.

As a writer, I personally feel that the term Councillor sounds an awful lot like a Counsellor of Mental Health or a Counselor at a summer camp. Whereas an Alderman... well, an Alderman sounds quite obviously like a member of a local municipal city government.  
I never really had that much trouble differentiating an airplane steward from a stewardess, and I don't think I've ever spoken either term aloud on any flight, I just received my little bag of snack mix gratefully.

To conclude this little ramble, I should say this. I think that if we could somehow, miraculously convince our brothers and sisters to all be kind to each other (thereby accomplishing something that few people, living or dead, have ever been able to do); then none of this PC hoo-rah would be needed in the first place. We'd all be nice to each other, we'd all treat each with kindness and tolerance and respect, and we'd use appropriate terms in appropriate ways. It's not the words that are the enemy, it's the ways in which we use them. However, that's just not likely to happen anytime soon, for we keep turning our heads and changing our vocabulary so as to never offend anybody. In a weird way, we kind of cover things up and forget that we're human — hu'man'. No matter what name changes we install, we're all still going to be the same slightly flawed, mildly indecent human beings. But congratulations Councillors! Perhaps now our city council can move forward and focus on things of more substance.

— By Chris Hibbard, Music Lover, Special to L.A. Beat

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