Last weekend, we were treated to the spectacle of Mike Pence and the Theater Community. In case you missed it, Pence went to see the hit musical and soon-to-be-its-own-sentient-entity Hamilton. The audience then actively booed him. Considering this is a man who not only thinks you should be allowed to refuse the LGBT community service in your business, but that it’s totally cool to electrocute them until they are straighter than a strand of Trump’s fake hair, this was probably the best kind of welcome he could hope to expect.
The cast of Hamilton understandably felt the situation should be addressed, and so after the show they made a heartfelt plea to Pence, asking him to protect the rights of all Americans, and not just the ones who look like they run exclusive country clubs. This already would have provided pundits with plenty to chew on, but we now live in Trump’s America, so of course Trump weighed in on Twitter, saying the cast of the show “harassed Pence” and declared the theater a “safe space.”
Our wonderful future V.P. Mike Pence was harassed last night at the theater by the cast of Hamilton, cameras blazing.This should not happen!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) November 19, 2016
The Theater must always be a safe and special place.The cast of Hamilton was very rude last night to a very good man, Mike Pence. Apologize!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) November 19, 2016
This is actually a very instructive moment, and not just because this is a very clever way for Trump to distract us from shelling out a $25 million settlement to make the Trump University fraud suit go away, despite having “principles.” This is a clear example of why you should always be skeptical of anyone who rails against the idea of “political correctness” with the kind of passion Trump, his supporters, and a good chunk of conservatives have.
During Trump’s campaign, he regularly lambasted the idea of political correctness, as did many of his supporters. They mocked the idea of safe spaces and ridiculed the liberals and millennials who were so coddled they just couldn’t take all the straight shooting blunt talk found in the “real world.” Yet here those same people are, essentially crying because a public official was booed and actors asked him to please not be an asshole to gay people and minorities.
Surprised? Really, we shouldn’t be. In my experience, when people complain about political correctness they are really complaining about not being allowed to be an asshole. They want to be able to call people “faggot,” they want to be able to use racial slurs, they want to make fun of people with disabilities, etc. And when you ask them to show respect, because all of those things are disrespectful, they respond that everyone just needs to stop having such thin skin.
Yet the kinds of people who think we are coddling everyone else with political correctness are often the first to complain of feeling attacked when the conversation turns toward them. Whether it’s Obama saying rural people cling to “God and guns” or saying that supporting the Confederate flag does make you kind of a racist, all of a sudden this blunt, unfiltered language becomes inexcusable. Because it was never about “real talk.” It was always about trying to maintain superiority to everyone else, and lashing out when that isn’t the case.
Let’s look at coal as an example, because it’s almost Christmastime and it’s what we deserve. Coal production has been trending down for decades, as competition from cheaper natural gas and incoming renewable energy sources push it out of the market. No matter what any politician tries to tell you, coal jobs are not coming back. But to express that means you are waging a war on coal. Instead of accepting that the jobs have largely moved to service industries in urban areas, they want to blame the more diverse population in those areas for “taking their jobs.” Telling them they are wrong to blame these “others” fuels the idea that “political correctness” is shielding these, in their eyes, unworthy moochers.
I don’t doubt how hard these rural, working class individuals work, but their reaction to issues such as these shows that political correctness is only an issue when it is used to help people other than themselves. It’s the reaction of scared people who see the world changing but refuse to change with it. The assault on political correctness is the last stand of people who no longer get the privilege they feel entitled to in the wake of everyone else catching up on the social ladder. That’s how you can have a guy like Trump say he can stand up to ISIS but then claim to feel bullied by theater kids.
Now, this isn’t to say the idea of political correctness can’t go too far, and there are situations where I can see why some argue it can be used as a form of censorship. Especially coming from the perspective of someone who writes jokes, there have been plenty of times I’ve found myself defending things some consider offensive and disrespectful. But in these cases it usually comes down to context. I will defend a joke like, say, the “Never go full retard” bit in Tropic Thunder, because while I can understand why people would find the use of “retard” disrespectful, they aren’t the target of the joke. The bit is going after Hollywood’s treatment of disabled people, and that context makes it a completely different beast than, well…
This probably sounds harsh, and it might be. But don’t forget, this is supposedly how they want it. Direct and to the point, no care for how other people take your opinions. Say what “everyone” is thinking, because, after all, you’re “just saying.” You just can’t say it about them, because being coward and hypocrites, they can’t stand their own medicine.