Thursday, October 28, 2010

What Americans Can't Talk About These Days

Americans have developed two per sonas -- one public and politically correct, the other private. Mix the two, and big trouble ensues. Some reminders on what to shut up about:

Don't discuss the deficit. Instead, call borrowing "stimulus." Debt can be paid back with more borrowing and someone else's higher taxes. Ignore the lessons of Greece and California. To appear noble, call for more unemployment benefits, free medical care and more entitlements. To sound cruel, talk about borrowing to pay for them.

Keep silent about Social Security and Medicare. If the system is insolvent, it can't be because we're living longer, retiring earlier, often taking out more than we paid into the pot, abusing disability provisions or facing an aging and soon-to-be-shrinking population. Instead, rail at fat cats who need to pay more payroll taxes and at wasteful programs, like defense, that can be cut to ensure more for the elderly and needy.

Most Americans choose to be called "cowards" by Attorney General Eric Holder rather than accept his invitation to talk about race on his terms. The NAACP has accused the Tea Party of racist views. The anger over high taxes, debt and big government warrants more concern among the Beltway's black leadership than exploring the causes of inordinately high incidence of crime, incarceration, one-parent homes and low high-school graduation rates.

Closing the border is taboo. Also the phrase "illegal alien." Speak instead about the need for social justice, not the enforcement of mere laws. Illegal aliens broke no real law when enticed northward by greedy employers. That's why the labor secretary released a video calling for workers to report employer abuses -- whether the workers are "documented or not."

Passing laws to subvert federal immigration laws, such as "sanctuary city" legislation, is commendable. Passing laws to enforce federal immigration statutes earns a lawsuit and condemnation by Mexico's president. Ask Arizona.

Don't get caught up in discussing global warming. If you must go there, employ the term "climate change" so that anything from a tornado to a blizzard can be blamed on man-caused carbon emissions.

Don't associate global terrorism with Islam. If Muslims must be mentioned, it should only be in the context that a tiny number, without support and often due to past oppression, commit such terrorism -- earning the furor of the Muslim community at large.

Don't end up like Juan Williams of NPR, who was fired for his candid remarks. For insurance, talk ad nauseam about Timothy McVeigh and the Oklahoma City bombing as proof that white-male Christians blow things up just as frequently.

Don't weigh in on gay marriage. Millions of Neanderthals voted to oppose it; a few sophisticated judges ruled to overturn bans on it. To talk positively about traditional marriage and the special historical relationship between a man and a woman is code for homophobia.

Lay off the university. It hikes tuition higher than the rate of inflation. It exploits part-time teachers while clinging to archaic notions like tenure. It can't guarantee that its graduates are competent in either basic reading or math -- or that they'll find a job. It shuns true diversity of thought. Yet question its budgets, hiring practices, political tolerance or affirmative action, and one is dubbed anti-intellectual, racist and cold-heartedly against letting someone be all that he can be.

We don't quite know how Americans will vote next week, in part because citizens fear to talk openly about their concerns and instead employ group-speak. In the privacy of the voting booth, they may prove angrier than we think.

But why not, when they know that candor and honesty can earn a presidential lecture, a job firing or a lawsuit?

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Editor:  We talk about all theses things at Ethics Forum!

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