A Sideways Glare at Contemporary Society
Normally, I’d be the first guy to applaud the death of a cliché. As everybody within earshot knows, I’ve spent the last two decades praying that the “shocked and appalled” crowd would pack their “imagine my surprise” bag and hit the road. However, imagine my surprise, the other night when I witnessed the sudden and painful death of “schizophrenia.” It was a minor incident that left me shocked and appalled. What happened was, on election night, Tom (Brokaw) and Brian (Williams) were controlling their euphoria and discussing what had just happened to the Republican Party. It was all fun and games until Brokaw forgot it was 2012 and said something like “Voting patterns are suffering from a kind of political schizophrenia right now.” The words were hardly out of his mouth when his eyes widened and his hand visibly twitched towards his earpiece. Obviously, the director up in the sound booth had set off the Politically Correct alarm. Immediately, Tom started bobbin’ and weavin’ as if he were Muhammad Ali about to tuck into Smokin’ Joe Frazier. In less than two sentences, we learned that schizophrenia was a debilitating disease, not to be taken lightly, and that the Republicans were a deeply divided party. Off camera, I imagine the producer was pulling his (or her) hair out as the offended Tweets started coming in, Williams exhaled a mighty sigh of relief it wasn’t he who went off the reservation (“Oops, I didn’t think that!”) and the unpaid squad of interns over at the snack table were laughing their asses off. Such is the minefield of modern reporting.
As we all learned from Miss Allen, our collective grade school grammar teacher, clichés are bad. If you use clichés, the rotation of the Earth will be altered and Satan will rise from Hades with his hideous minions to wage unholy war on puppies and kittens. Just one “round as a barrel” or a thoughtless “white as snow,” and you’ll never get a good job and probably end your days a scabby crack whore, lost and alone. Even though I know in my heart Miss Allen was right, now that the PC crew have joined the fray, my enthusiasm for the war on clichés has diminished — noticeably. It’s no secret that the Politically Correct have been up to no good ever since they raised their mindless heads, way back in the 70s. To say the least, I’m on the horns of a dilemma. Perhaps clichés are actually our friends, stalwarts who have stood by us through thick and thin, ready, willing and able to quickly communicate complex information with a minimal use of words. For example, who among us doesn’t know something that is “funny as hell?”
OMG! I may have stumbled through the Politically Correct barrier and now stand friendless in the barren wastes of independent thought. Hell is, after all, a major component of Judeo-Christian tradition – the particularly nasty bit at the end, actually. Logically, therefore, it follows (since “humourous Christian” is definitely an oxymoron) that I may have offended some Christians by suggesting that Hell , the ultimate punishment for disobeying God’s law, is in some way comical. Fortunately, since Christians are pretty much the Rodney Dangerfield of the 21st century, I don’t have to apologize. However, way more serious than that, I may have offended a myriad of other groups with more powerful friends. There is a cornucopia of religions out there (Wiccans, Shamanists, the folks who worship Tinker Toys) who do not acknowledge the existence of Hell, and they may be offended that I had the audacity to suggest there is such a place – funny or otherwise. Besides, there are the Buddhists, Hindus, Zoroastrians and the ever-offended Moslems, who might be offended that my subconscious concept of eternal fire and brimstone is Eurocentric in nature and, therefore, suggests that their Hell is not equally as funny. And what about the Atheists or the Existentialists or the Secularists? I may have inadvertently offended three-quarters of the people on this planet! Hell might actually be the most offensive word in the English language! In order to satisfy the Politically Correct Fascistas, we may have to cut Hell completely out of our vocabulary!
Hell no! Not on my watch!
Hell is a perfectly good word, and I shall defend it until they pry the keyboard from my cold, stiff fingers. However, I am also a caring, sharing man of the 21st century, not insensitive to the sensitivities of others. I have a compromise. Why don’t we tap into our proud tradition and just call it the H-word? It could join the L-word, the R-word, the mildly confusing Other F-word and the wildly popular F-bomb in our pantheon of words we no longer say out loud. Everyone will still know what we’re talking about, but nobody will actually hear the word. For example, it could be “hot as the H-word, out there.” Or “If I’m ever chased by zombies, I going to run like the H-word.” It’s a brilliant and workable solution.
Unfortunately, I’ve run out of time to deal with my cliché situation. Isn’t it fascinating that politically correct always diverts our attention from the immediate problem at hand?