We are in the middle of U.S. Constitution Week. We have been marking this event since 1956, when President Eisenhower proclaimed that it be observed after The Daughters of the American Revolution petitioned Congress for a week to remember and promote the study of our Constitution.
It occurs each year beginning on Sept. 17 (unless it falls on a weekend). This date was chosen to start the observance because the Constitution was signed by the Constitutional Convention Congress on Sept. 17, 1787. (It became effective on June 21, 1788 after nine of the 13 states approved it).
In 1952, President Harry Truman signed into law Citizenship Day to be observed on Sept. 17, and in 2004, Sept. 17 was also chosen as Constitution Day.
I apologize for mentioning citizenship, but I have only recently become aware that citizen is a politically incorrect word. Elliott Bronstein of the office for Civil Rights in Seattle told KIRO Radio that government workers in the city of Seattle have been advised the terms “citizen” and “brown bag” may no longer be used in official documents and discussions because the terms are potentially offensive.
Bronstein said the correct word to use is “resident” because many people who legally live in the city and pay taxes are residents but not citizens. “Lunch-and-learn” or “sack-lunch” should be used instead of “brown-bag.” Bronstein explained that some African-Americans are offended because “brown bag” brings up old memories when the term was used to refer to people’s skin color.
If being politically correct (PC) is a concern of yours, you need not fear because the PC Police are working over-time to watch our language usage. Of course the main-stream media, acting as deputies for the PC Police, are daily on the job reminding us of the appropriate words to use.
Here are some examples of the prescribed “proper code of speech.” A manhole cover is now a “person-hole cover,” a freshman is a “first-year student,” and a journeyman is a “journey-person.” Burglars should be called, “unwanted house guests,” shoplifters are “non-paying customers,” and stolen goods are “un-purchased items.”
Even some of the lyrics of our Christian hymns have been changed so no one feels excluded. “Good Christian Men, Rejoice” is now correctly sung “Good Christian Friends, Rejoice.” Of course we all know that terrorist attacks are now properly called “man-caused disasters.”
The words I use state what I intend to express. Oftentimes words that are innocuous to us are heard by people with fragile egos as unkind, hostile or not inclusive.
Masked as wanting to prevent us from offending others, I see the ultimate goal of the PC Police as wanting to control what we believe. You see the words we use outline what we think and then become what we express. Words comprise and contribute to our belief system. The self-censorship of political correctness will erode our belief system and ultimately become what we accept as true.
Peggy Noonan writing in the Wall Street Journal on Aug. 16 quoted a renowned libertarian, 88-year-old Nat Hentoff, who referred to a conversation with former Justice William Brennan. Brennan told him that our private thoughts and the ability to express them may be our most important freedom that the First Amendment of the Constitution guarantees. Hentoff said, “It (watching our word choice) could have the effect of constricting freedom of expression.”
The recent National Security Agency revelations have caused many of us to fear that we are living in a country that is recording massive amounts of data about each of us, including our private thoughts and messages.
Hentoff believes, “Broad and intrusive surveillance will, definitively, put government in charge.” It will have the effect of citizens answering to the government instead of the government answering to its citizens. According to Hentoff, surveillance of our private communication is almost is a violation of the “Search and Seizure,” 4th Amendment.
Unfortunately political correctness shapes the way that we communicate with each other, and most of us are not even aware that our privacy and thought processes are what is really being violated. Dr. Benjamin Carson sums up political correctness this way: “We will not be the land of the free if we are not the home of the brave. We must be able to stand up and speak whatever we believe.”
Let’s do what we can as individuals to keep our Constitution from being watered down. I have decided that I am not sanitizing my speech. I am proud to be a CITIZEN of Hopkinsville, a CITIZEN of Kentucky, and, a CITIZEN of the United States of America! Before Constitution Week passes us by, why not make a similar proclamation? Let our freedoms ring!
WILLEE COOPER is a former teacher and military spouse. A Hopkinsville resident, she is past president of the Kentucky Federation of Republican Women. Her column runs on the first and third Friday of each month. Reach her at email@example.com.