An Oppressive Boot on the Neck of Free Speech

Freedom of speech was so important to America’s founders that it was not the tenth, or the fifth, but the First Amendment to the Constitution. It is under assault today from many quarters as evidenced by speech codes and the cancel culture ready to pounce on any words, spoken or written, not approved by the left.

Colorado State University, several years ago, prepared a draft “Inclusive Language Guide.” This is a modern-day version of George Orwell’s “Newspeak,” the official language of fictious Oceania, words designed to be politically correct without a hint of rebellion or opposition to the establishment.

Although the CSU guide is a few years old, it is worth revisiting as the cancel culture is in overdrive these days, invigorated by their supposed landslide electoral victory last November. Those with conservative views are being erased from the corporate world and academia simply because terms like “free expression, tolerance, and diversity” only flow in one direction, to the left.

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Disney actress Gina Carano was recently fired for comparing current cancel culture to Nazi pogroms a century ago while those on the left are free to compare Republicans and Donald Trump to Nazis, Hitler, racists, supremacists, and all manner of vile insults, without fear of losing their jobs or reputations.

The CSU guide was created by a group of university staff to avoid offending anyone who might hear or read words that have been part of the American lexicon for centuries. Here is the actual guide and some examples.

Note that it is not “official policy or required practice,” only a guide, but woe to those who disregard the suggestions. It’s also a “living document”, meaning it can change based on the political winds, as in who occupies the White House.

“Birth defect” should be replaced with “person with a congenital disability” as it supposedly generalizes the population. “Defect” implies the person is “sub-par” or incomplete. Doesn’t “disability” do the same?

“Colored” should be replaced with “person of color”, as it was decades ago. When was the last time you saw anyone use the term “colored”? Was a written guide necessary for this?

“Cake walk” somehow dredges up images of minstrel shows and racism. I had no idea instead thinking it a more colorful way of saying what CSU prefers, “that was easy.”  Are “walk in the park” or “day at the beach” with similar meaning also racist or implying privilege?

“Freshman” should be replaced by “first-year” due to the man bit. They don’t address the “man” in human or the “son” in person.

“Ghetto” should be avoided, instead referring to a specific neighborhood by name. What if one is simply referring to poor neighborhoods, not one in particular? Of course the New York Times is permitted to use the term “ghetto” as long as they tie it to Trump.

“Handicap parking” minimizes personhood, according to CSU, preferring “accessible parking or parking for people with disabilities.” Someone should tell local county officials in Colorado who describe “handicap placards”, or Amazon, which sells large blue signs with wording, “handicapped parking.” It would be difficult to fit all the preferred words on a placard or sign.

The traditional speech opening, “ladies and gentlemen” implies binary gender and should be replaced by “everyone.” Perhaps in the South, “Y’all” would suffice.

Of course “illegal immigrant/alien” is offensive as it points out the truth, that the process by which someone entered the country did not follow the law, making it by definition illegal. Someone should have told then President Bill Clinton, who used the terms “criminal alien” and “illegal alien” freely. CSU wants them called simply “immigrants,” just as we would refer to those who followed all legal processes for residency or citizenship.

Bank robbery, by this logic, should be an “unauthorized withdrawal,” shoplifting an “unauthorized purchase”, and murder an “undocumented death.”

Common expressions, “long time no see” and “no can do” are somehow mocking Asians. No, that would be Joe Biden saying, “You cannot go to a 7-Eleven or a Dunkin' Donuts unless you have a slight Indian accent.”

CSU prefers “person with a spinal cord injury” over “paraplegia or quadriplegia”, which are medical terms specifying the level of spinal cord injury and function. How useful in non-medical discourse would “C7 incomplete” be compared to “paraplegia”? Should we lump pneumonia, COPD, and asthma, all different diseases, into “person with breathing challenges” to avoid minimizing personhood.

“Pow wow” is an term for a meeting or gathering, traditionally Native American but now a common expression. I have not heard of someone organizing a “Zoom or Skype pow wow” rather than meeting, so perhaps this expression isn’t used much anymore, except as a culturally appropriating book title where Elizabeth Warren shared her “Cherokee family recipes” which were word for word copies of a famous French chef’s recipes.

“Rule of thumb,” a popular expression for “general rule” is deemed offensive as it supposedly derives from English law allowing wife beating. Who knew? I looked it up and it’s a myth, not mentioned in English law, with the origin of the expression unknown.

“I’m starving” should be replaced with “I’m hungry” as it “appropriates real hardship.”  “Food coma”, as in sleepiness after a big meal, supposedly alludes to “stereotypes of laziness associated with African-Americans.” Who knew laziness was racial? Asserting such a stereotype is itself racist.

“Thug” is also racist and should not be used, except by Barack Obama when he described Baltimore rioters. I didn’t realize Obama was a racist.

“American/America” was included in the first draft, but ultimately deleted. The original thinking was that the “Americas” covered North, Central, and South America, rather than just the United States. Hopefully Joe Biden, when he gives the State of the Union address, won’t begin with “my fellow Americans” instead saying “my fellow persons from the United States”.

Yes, this is only a guide, and not a mandate, but I wonder how many freshman writing class instructors correct students when they use “words to avoid” rather than “suggestions for replacement”?

Let’s try the inclusive language guide, with the verboten words in parenthesis.

I am a first year (freshman) sitting in the audience (peanut gallery) of the huge lecture hall, feeling sleepy because I ate too much (I’m in a food coma), listening to my boring and uncool (lame) professor presenting a choice of writing topics. I randomly select one (eenie meenie miney moe) to write about. I was nervous (a basket case) as I was experiencing a hostile environment with (at war with) my surprising and wild (crazy) roommate who parked my car in a parking for people with disabilities (handicapped) spot.

The police officer (cop) wrote me a ticket, cheating (gyping) me out of fifty dollars. I asked for a warning but ze (he/she) said I can’t do it (no can do). What a boring and uncool law enforcement officer (idiot cop). Oh well, back to class.

Brian C Joondeph is a racist, sexist, homophobic, xenophobic, white supremacist, privileged, extremist, insurrectionist, fascist, deplorable, smelly, bigoted, domestic terrorist (conservative) writer and physician.

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