George Orwell’s 1984 made a big impression on me when I read it in 8th grade. I am insanely sensitive to any attempt, however well meaning, to control language.
If forced to choose a side in the war of Politically Correct language, I would proudly fight on the side of free speech at any cost. There should be no limits on what is said because you never know who will be doing the limiting one day.
While I’m not a fan of changing the world by controlling how people speak, I am a fan of changing the world by controlling how I act (I could be much better on this).
As a teenager, I met a man while walking by myself in the French Quarter one night. He was homeless and seemed to have been traveling hard for a long time. He had a piece of French bread in his hand and shortly into our conversation he stopped and said, “I found this bread in a dumpster, I don’t want to bother you by eating it.”
I asked him, “why would that bother me?” and he explained how he never meant to give offense and he would rather be hungry than cause another person grief. He then quoted the following bible verse:
It is better not to eat meat or drink wine or do anything else that will cause your brother or sister to fail.
Think about that for a second. You don’t have to be religious at all to appreciate the concern a man with nothing but a backpack and an old Bible had for a stranger’s feelings.
This doesn’t mean we should always be nice. Sometimes withholding a strong word will cause our brothers and sisters to fail. But what if we all agreed that we could say anything we wanted without fear of government enforced punishment, but practiced speech that caused people to win?