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Issue 10 - A Journal of Letters and Life
Critiques & Reviews
Politically Erect
by Alison Ross
Feeling a little hard on yourself lately for chronically uttering the wrong thing at the wrong time? Feeling as though you're continually shoving your stinky soles down your esophageal tube for making outlandishly offensive remarks, but getting a clandestine thrill out of it nonetheless?
     If unwittingly insulting other religions, races, genders, ages, species, planetary creatures, etc. is your unfortunate forte, then we just might have a place for you among the lovable legions of the Politically Erect, a non-partisan crew of merrily unsavvy citizens who refuse to yield to despotic demands to make only socially acceptable remarks about those who diverge from themselves in any explicit or implicit way.
     Yes, you read right: I'm lambasting Political Correctness (PC), and replacing it with my own form of Political Erectness (PE). (Okay, so I didn't actually coin the term Politically Erect; I cribbed it from a bumper sticker. Regardless, I do give myself credit for ascertaining the inherent merit of said slogan and appropriating it for my own puerile purposes).
     Political Erectness is not anti-PC in the strictest sense - it's not some freakish fundamentalist Neo-Nazi Pat Buchanan Christian Coalition KKK conspiracy to erase all social and cultural euphemisms and replace them with only the vilest homophobic, racist and sexist epithets.     
     No, no, PE is none of that. PE is way too astute for such nonsense. PE is, simply, an audacious acknowledgment of the prejudice that abides in all human beings.
     Now, if you're a generic-brand Liberal (Get yours today - while supplies last!), you might scoff at this in your helplessly patronizing manner, urging that human souls start out as clean blank slates and claiming that society is at fault for etching prejudice and hatred onto our otherwise pristine psyches.
     And if you're a name-brand conservative (or just a hillbilly wannabe with stock in Tommy Hillfigger), you would pump an energized fist into the air upon learning that I insist on the native essence of bigotry. "Damn straight!" you would yelp while spanking the air with your cherished confederate flag.
     But if you're a thinking individual like me, instead of gobbling up whatever looks half-way digestible that the masses throw at you, you would actually allow your intuition and experience to be your guides. Now I realize that intuition and experience are big words for those who faithfully read the Atlanta-Journal Constitution (or any variation thereof). But once you learn what they mean, you'll understand where I'm coming from.
     First off, I don't subscribe to the particular issue of the Tired Liberal Viewpoint that condemns our social environment as the sole perpetrator of prejudice. I believe that it's a baffling blend of nature and nurture that permits us to be inhaled into that vicious vortex.
     I think, in other words, that we are naturally and karmically disposed to hold others under scrutinizing suspicion, and that often these tendencies are nearly irrevocably reinforced by our environments.
     But I don't feel, as does the cadre of creepy conservatives, that because prejudice is an indwelling phenomenon we should exploit it to our favor. I believe that we should do whatever we can to thwart the bilious bastard of bigotry before he usurps the throne of our conscience where angels placidly reign.
     At the same time, I do not believe that society, in its infinite imperiousness, should mandate how we think. Yes, I suppose we have to construct legal barriers in an attempt to prevent egregious harm to others, but that's because deeds are more vociferous than words.
     I am not saying that I eagerly endorse co-workers making racist or sexist remarks in the vicinity of potentially outraged parties, but I do believe that the general workplace climate has gotten too preposterously PC. I myself was once on the receiving end of a spate of sexist comments at one of my jobs, and while I didn't find it a pleasant experience, I managed to survive -- unscathed even ! -- maybe because I don't base my entire identity on the particular set of genitals that happen to serve as my anatomical adornment.
     At the same time, I do view persistently vocalized prejudice as harassment, and think it should be dealt with swiftly and efficiently.
     But if Joe and Jane are having dinner with Jose and Juanita and one of them mutters a witty remark tinged with transvestite-taunting or wheelchair-teasing or otherwise socially offensive overtones, I do not, with all my bleeding heart and sparkling soul, think that this person's derriere should be repeatedly jabbed with Lucifer's oversized blaze-tipped forked utensil to make the point that insulting others is a taboo-transgression so severe it warrants exile to the furthest netherworld beyond the most bottom-feeding inferno.
      I mean, some people need to LIGHTEN THE FUCK UP. I don't even like to use "fuck" in my tirades because it smacks of bohemian elitism, as though my attempt to disorient the smug swimmers of mainstream currents entitles me to pretentious profanity. But sometimes I feel I must stoop to vulgar verbiage to assert myself.
     And in thusly asserting myself, I must warn PC proponents that fascist enforcement of a socially benign vernacular only encourages and enlarges the enemy, merely aggrandizes his arsenal of absurd attack-weapons.
     Furthermore, it makes us all uncomfortable with who we are, which is a species of being biologically bent toward self-bias. Prejudice does not just extend to conflicting cultures, it reaches out to others within our own cultural orbit as well. For instance, I, Ally, a single white female, might be prejudiced against my roommate, Sally, also a spouseless Anglo chick, because the abbreviated period which she utilizes to brush her teeth could be more effectively employed to emit a note of flatulence. Perhaps I am more time-involved in my own dental maintenance and am therefore prejudiced against Sally's hygienic habits.
     Any one of us at any given time is prejudiced against another for any number of reasons; it's a integral part of who we are, and while we must always work to diminish this not-so-quaint quirk of ours, we can't hope to fully escape it, at least in this lifetime, so we might as well get used to it and accept it and work with it. In doing so, we can actually use it to innocuous advantage.
     But how exactly might we go about exploring the apparent beneficence of our prejudicial proclivities?
     Well, this is where PE comes in. Once we acknowledge that our tendency toward social subjectivity -- the judging of others on the basis of ethnic origin, sexual orientation, religious preference, number of visible nose hairs, etc. -- is a trait we all share (for better or for worse), then we can begin to mine the humor in it. For humor can be found both in the fact that we are so crassly critical and in our differences.
     The imposition of Political Correctness indicates that we've lost sight of the deep distinction that exists between satire and ignorance. Well-honed satire is not tantamount to abysmal benightedness as some might mistakenly believe; it's actually the enlightened inverse. Ignorance is when someone is unaware of the dreary pitfalls of prejudice; isn't even aware that he or she is a reckless practitioner of prejudice. Satire, on the other hand, is when someone is fully cognizant of humanity's foibles, and gleefully mocks them.
     So, if you are aware that extreme prejudice is injurious to all parties involved and in your daily life work toward minimizing its influence, then I think making in appropriate contexts what could be construed in other environments as offensive jokes is not only okay, it should be encouraged. We need some method to salvage our sanity, and humor is one of the best means to do that.
     Political Erectness thrives on the subversive sarcasm of satire. PE is a two-pronged satirical approach: it overtly ridicules the object in question (e.g., hearing-impaired homosexual conjoined twins), as well as covertly mocks the subject (the person who would feel superior to and therefore ridicule hearing-impaired homosexual conjoined twins).
     Now, I would never recklessly ridicule deaf homo freak-twins (oops, did I already do that?), but in the right context, I might, and still consider my conscience untainted. But how does one know when the context is right? Again, one must use his or her intuition as a guide.
     I also believe there are non-threatening ways people can lampoon other human beings. Think, for instance, about "The Simpsons." In that show (the only one worth owning a TV for -- that, and "Sesame Street"), natives of India are represented by Apu, the convenience store owner. He has a stereotypical job and accent, and acts in a stereotypical manner. Yet, there is nothing whatsoever about him that is demeaning to Indians, because his character is executed in a respectful way. An ignorant portrayal of an Indian would be disrespectful, one that would rudely mock his characteristics rather than affectionately satirize them.
     And "The Simpsons" creators, largely white, don't just focus their satirical lens on other ethnicities, they mock teenagers, octogenarians, policemen, school teachers and principals, Christian fundamentalists, you name it. And don't forget their central focus, the generic suburban Caucasian family, the show's zany namesake.
     Political Correctness is pure, unadulterated fascism. Political Erectness, on the other hand, is pure, adult-rated funnism. To practice political correction is to be miserable in a miserable world; to have a political erection is to be happy in a miserable world and to spread this mirthful misery to as many people as possible. Political Correctness labors to impose perfection onto something irredeemably flawed and further divides those already sharply divided; Political Erectness lovingly embraces the big drooling baby of imperfection and endeavors to unite those who feel socially alienated from each other. This is because PE recognizes prejudice as inane yet inescapable, and attempts to reconcile the dichotomy through satirical means.
     So the next time you're dining out with epidermally-challenged dyslexic lesbians from Jupiter, be sure to let them know that the title of your next film, "Dumb Leper Dyke Freaks," is in no way intended to offend, and I'm sure they'll understand.

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