A headline caught my eye a few days ago. It read, “Washington Post staffer says Donald Trump hit on her.”
Goodness, I thought to myself, what did The Donald do now? Offer to buy her a drink? Ask her out to dinner in his private suite? Brag about his glove size?
I did some exploring, and came across the reporter’s own account of the incident. Karen Attiah wrote about the recent meeting Trump had with the Washington Post’s editorial board, and as she recalled it, “As the meeting ended and we were walking out of the room, I thanked Trump for taking my question. He turned to me and said, ‘I really hope I answered your question,’ and added casually with a smile, ‘Beautiful.’”
She wrote, “I was stunned… I stayed in the conference room for a few minutes as it sunk in that the potential GOP nominee for president thought it was okay to comment on my appearance. Did he just say that?”
From Ms. Attiah’s own telling, my first thought was that Trump was simply summing up the meeting, as in, “Great, that was beautiful, thanks for having me.” Trump uses the word “beautiful” a lot, as in, “The wall on the Mexican border will be a beautiful wall.”
But let’s suppose Ms. Attiah is right, and that Trump’s “beautiful” was directed at her. It is a sign of our unfortunate times that calling a woman beautiful is regarded as insulting, politically incorrect, and even taken as being “hit on.” But it is in those times that we live, and over the years everyone has been taught to be careful about commenting on someone’s appearance, even to pay a compliment.
Putting our observations into words can lead to dreadful consequences. So we learn not to say what we think, and not to comment on what we see, and even to go so far as to be very careful about stating the obvious.
As a result, we learn not to even think it in the first place — which is the most frightening result of political correctness. When we are trained, and then begin to train ourselves, not to say certain things for the sole reason that saying them might lead someone or some group to claim offense — even when no offense is intended or actually taken — we begin to shut down our thoughts, one subject at a time.
Of course, the best dramatization of this phenomenon was the great novel, “1984,” by George Orwell, published in 1948. The leaders of Orwell’s fictional authoritarian society believed in a few simple precepts to keep people under control. One such government principle was, “Power is in tearing human minds to pieces and putting them together again in new shapes of your own choosing.”
What we today call political correctness is referred to in “1984” as “Newspeak,” a language with government-approved words that replaced truth with propaganda, and which were even used to revise literature in order to fabricate a history that best suited the government’s current needs. Anything that contradicted Newspeak was considered a “thoughtcrime,” and those who engaged in thoughtcrime were severely punished and often put to death.
It is rather amusing when Donald Trump is accused of being an authoritarian or totalitarian figure, when he is the most politically incorrect candidate to enter the world stage in decades. It is, in fact, the entrenched pundits and politicos — the ones most terrified of Trump’s success — who are the authoritarians, scared at how gleefully Trump rattles their carefully crafted PC world and threatens the narrow corridors of thought where most Americans are forced to reside.
So thoroughly has Newspeak taken hold in the U.S. that many of our college students are apparently unable even to bear the sight of certain words — such as “Trump.” Let’s return to the easily offended Washington Post for a description of what happened last week at Emory University in Atlanta.
“A flurry of chalk scrawls supporting Donald Trump on the Emory University campus sparked a demonstration by students who demanded and were granted a meeting with the (university) president, saying the messages made them feel concerned and frightened,” the Post reported.
Yes, seeing the name “Trump” written in chalk frightened the students, who, through their indoctrination, have become unable to consider a thought outside their political belief system without suffering a mental meltdown. We also see this same fear demonstrated in the efforts to shut down Trump rallies.
The topic of race is where Newspeak has taken its firmest foothold. So restricted are people of all races in expressing views about race issues — out of fear of being labeled “racist” one way or the other — that the subject is generally avoided. That’s a shame, because if any issue cries out for an honest and constructive conversation without political correctness intervening, it is the subject of race.
And so, into this environment steps Donald Trump. Whether by accident or design, Trump is serving as a reminder of just how far down the PC road our society has gone as we witness the apoplectic reactions to his plainspoken declarations.
It seems to most of us that Trump is often unnecessarily rude and disparaging. But that opinion comes from a place that is so immersed in politically correct dogma that it is difficult to know if we are properly judging him. It could be that we are instead falling prey to the genteel filter that society has foisted upon most of us for so long, which Trump’s wealth and independence have inoculated him from having to embrace.
If elected, Trump may be a great president, or he may be a total disaster. I sincerely do not know. The media and the GOP establishment are furiously ganging up on him now in an effort to force a brokered convention, where they can anoint their safe alternative, Ohio Gov. John Kasich, with Texas Sen. Ted Cruz a less preferred but still acceptable substitute for Trump.
In the meantime, though, it is amazing, even liberating, to watch Trump violate decades of conventional wisdom, turn the entrenched and stale political establishment on its head, and keep the PC Police on a constant state of high alert. Beautiful.
Reach Gary Abernathy at 937-393-3456 or on Twitter @abernathygary.