The Force of Political Correctness

At seventeen, I haven't been around for too long, but from what I see, this is an amazing time to live.

Our nation's first African-American president is finishing his second term. One of the leading candidates to succeed him is a woman. Gay and lesbian people, throughout the country now, have the right to legally marry. Most of these things would have probably been impossible to imagine before I was born, whether 50 -- or heck, even just 20 -- years ago.

You can even see progress in the Star Wars galaxy. In The Force Awakens, the newest badass Jedi-to-be is a young woman, Rey. Her loyal friends are a cute spherical droid and a former Stormtrooper with a heart, who happens to be black -- I mean, African-American. Am I saying that right? But hold on, isn't the actor, John Boyega, a Brit? I mean, a person of British origin? Oops. Did I mess that up?

I'm already getting myself in trouble here, caught in the tractor beam of political correctness. No one can escape it, even if we try blasting through hyperspace to the Outer Rim.

Political correctness has good intentions behind it. It's about being sensitive and inclusive when describing ethnicity, religion, sexual orientation, physical disabilities or other attributes. Examples include: "Caucasian" instead of "white," "a person with disabilities" instead of "handicapped," and "Trained Force Operator" instead of Jedi.

Some might argue though (and by some, I of course really mean I), that political correctness has reached the point where we have to be hypersensitive about everything we say. Just take a look on social media, where the offended now have a convenient vehicle to express their outrage at literally anything and everything.

Man, I'm even censoring my own thoughts as I write this. I'm worried that if I poke fun at this topic it's going to across come off as rude and insensitive at best -- and racist or prejudiced at worst (even though I myself am part Caucasian, part Asian and part black -- you would think I am safe, but of course I'm not!). I'm going to start sounding like a young Donald Trump, aren't I? I didn't really just say that, right? That's Replublican-bashing! (Even if I am bashing the most offensive equal opportunity basher himself!) But why should I be concerned about people who are missing the point of what I'm trying to say?

I keep thinking of comedian Louis C.K.'s infamous Saturday Night Live monologue from last year. Without going into detail, his joke compared pedophilia to his love of Mounds candy bars. Needless to say, countless viewers were disgusted, and social media blew up over it.

Because the content of his joke was shocking, Louis C.K. challenged our notions of what's acceptable to talk about, especially on network television. He forced us to consider the complexity around a topic people do not want to think about, let alone talk about publicly. Unfortunately, many missed the point. ("This is going to be my last show," he said as SNL audience members groaned.) I still thought it was funny.

As a successful comedian, Louis C.K. can afford to push the envelope with his jokes. It's his job. Most of us don't have that luxury. We have to watch everything we say, whether in class, on Facebook, wherever. Our words may offend in ways we simply can't foresee.

To avoid irritating anyone, many smart people would rather keep silent, rarely expressing themselves honestly. Why risk it? The idea of being safe, of being politically correct, trumps all else, including freedom of thought and expression. And to me, that's actually a shame.

"It is the mark of an educated mind to be able to entertain a thought without accepting it," Aristotle said. In other words, it's lame to dismiss an idea because it may offend you. We need to open our minds to a variety of different perspectives, whether or not they're aligned with our own, or cloaked in politically correct language. And we shouldn't be afraid to voice our opinions, even if they might hurt some feelings. As long as we're not complete boneheads about it, of course.

Trying too hard to be PC just isn't worth it. Instead, enjoy the many opportunities we have to connect with people from different backgrounds. Hang out with those people. Make of one other. Go see a movie. Make fun of it. Talk about how The Force Awakens is so much better than the prequel trilogy.

In the end, we're all pretty different, but everyone hates Jar Jar Binks. Should we try to get Trump to correct his ways? Nah. Let's just take a page out of the British handbook, and decide to mock him -- and his hair, of course!