Column: A toxic brew of politically correct outrage

In my short time here at the Miner I've come to enjoy the letters that cross my desk, as I know that the writer felt strongly enough about something that they took the time to contact us.

There are times I have to remind people that I'm part of the community, too. All of us here are. Even at work, we try to be an active part of the community and get the word out about events and things happening. You know ... write the news. And while we miss things from time to time, we try our best to cover as many different things as possible.

We get more positive letters than anything else, or concerned letters about a given issue. Sometimes it's just an "FYI" letter, and I like those too. The negative ones that offer no constructive criticism are easy enough to ignore most of the time, but there was one that came in last month that really grinded my gears.

It was addressed to the whole newsroom, and the sender didn't bother putting a return address or a name on it. Inside were a series of clippings from our previous papers. He circled people in the photos who were minorities and inscribed "P.C." over the photo.

I wish it was more cryptic than it looks. No return address. No letter explaining the photos. The sender is clearly using the pejorative version of political correctness.

Now this reader is giving us more credit than we deserve. Most of the time, when we take a photo for the paper, we usually are taking into consideration whether or not a student has media clearance or if the photo accurately illustrates the story. And, considering most of the photos circled were of students, the photographer (myself being one of them) was more concerned with who was carrying the football or what the kids were doing in the classroom.

To imply that we're planting minority children in our photos to be PC is ridiculous. We're not manipulative masterminds. The most scheming I do at work is finding a good place to stash my orange juice so that people don't drink it, or to convince the vending machine guys to put in more powdered doughnuts.

It's been a few weeks since it came in, and I purposefully kept the photos because it's been scraping at the back of my mind. PC. Political correctness. Am I PC? Are our readers PC? Is this article PC? Is my PC PC?

And what about those college protests popping up around the nation? Are they PC, too?

Being PC these days feels like a toxic brew of outrage for the sake of outrage and caring too much about what other people should be doing and thinking instead of caring about what you should be doing and thinking. PC is a safe harbor for logical fallacies, where red herrings, straw men and burdens of proof can dominate a conversation to the point of being taboo. We're seeing it on college campuses right now, where black kids can't be racist and feminists can't be sexist, and that any conversation about their group must be done on their terms and without critique of their message.

That militant attitude has been met with equally belligerent anti-PC rhetoric to the point where we're creating some kind of twisted version of the irresistible force paradox. What happens when an argument so un-PC takes on an argument rooted in being PC? I don't honestly know, probably because I'm covered in wool and can't wake up for some reason.

I keep coming back to a quote from Gandhi, who said "Anger and intolerance are the enemies of correct understanding." I see so many of us, myself included, scrambling to understand why everything is so damn horrible. Why people are dying at the hands of those who want us to be afraid, and why do we act on that fear by eroding the very freedoms we fight so hard to protect? I'm quick to anger, just like the PC and anti-PC crowds, and when I look back on the things I said and the fights I picked I realize that those rooted in anger were tainted, petty and irrelevant.

We're all watching France right now. We're waiting to see what happens next. We're facing an enemy who wants nothing more than for us to be afraid, and I honestly don't remember a time when I was told not to be afraid.

I'm watching the talking heads try to be un-PC, and watching the analysts try to keep the issue as PC as possible, and all I wonder is when did we sacrifice the pursuit of understanding and enlightenment to the angry and intolerant? When did we let them drive most of the public narrative? Is there a silent majority out there that's moderate enough to look at a situation without polarizing it? And, more importantly, why aren't they saying something?

In times like this, we don't need political correctness or whatever we're calling the other side. We need understanding, because issues like what we're seeing in France deserve all the empathy we can muster.