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Margaret's Musings: Can you say censorship?

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opinion River Falls, 54022

River Falls Wisconsin 2815 Prairie Drive / P.O. Box 25 54022

When my 90-year-old father sneezed recently, my automatic reaction was to say 'God Bless you.' As long as I can remember that has been something I said and it normally just comes out of my mouth. So when my dad said "You know, you can't say that anymore," I was amazed. In explanation my father went on to say 'You can't say 'God,' you are supposed to just say bless you.'

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This, combined with a number of people this year apologetically offering a Merry Christmas greeting sort of under their breath and then offering Happy Holidays as an alternative, caused me to think about the concept of political correctness. Perhaps we need to realize that being PC may be a significant sign of censorship.

No matter which side of the political spectrum you are on, you have probably joked at one time or another about the latest example of political correctness. I used to have a book entitled "Politically Correct Holiday Stories: For an Enlightened Yuletide Season."

On the heels of my dad's comment, I read the recent letter to the editor referring to a policy at the University of Minnesota regarding the 'holidays.' At first I thought, this can't be true. The Freedom of Speech is guaranteed by the The First Amendment: 'Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.'

Wanting to see this document for myself, I did find the memo on the MPR on-campus website. Here is the content of the memo below, as it appeared:

Alex Friedrich, reporter for MPR, tracked down the memo and a subsequent one issued a week later on Dec. 13, which back-pedaled a bit and explained that the previous memo was sent to Human Resource Managers, not to all employees. It also pointed out that the University of Minnesota is the fifth largest employer in the state.

Over the years, I have witnessed the removal of nearly all Christmas related songs and activities in our elementary schools. At the same time I wondered if while teaching about the other religions and cultures of the world, did our public school curriculum provide equal time for teaching about Christianity, which by last count (2010) still was identified as the predominant religion in the United States, with 246,790,000 identifying themselves as Christian out of a total population of 310,380,000, which translates to approximately 79 percent of our population. This information was found on the website www.pewforum.org.

I tried the U.S. Census Bureau first and discovered this: "Public Law 94-521 prohibits us from asking a question on religious affiliation on a mandatory basis; therefore, the Bureau of the Census is not the source for information on religion."

There is a certain irony to our cultural degradation.

Standard PC definitions include: "Politically correct is a term which denotes language, ideas, policies, and behavior seen as seeking to minimize social and institutional offense in occupational, gender, racial, cultural, sexual orientation, certain other religions, beliefs or ideologies, disability, and age-related contexts, and, as purported by the term, doing so to an excessive extent."

Or this definition found in a student's version of Merriam Webster:

Politically correct: adjective, following the belief that language and practices which could offend political sensibilities (as in matters of sex or race) should be eliminated. Or American Heritage's definition of politically correct: of, relating to, or supporting broad social, political, and educational change, especially to redress historical injustices in matters such as race, class, gender, and sexual orientation.

While institutions try to sustain these definitions, Shock jocks like Howard Stern earn $400 million dollars in a five year contract to offend the air waves and the likes of Jersey Shore, 'Star' Nicole "Snooki" Polizzi earns regular visits to late night talk shows, a book deal and a ridiculous about of money for... You fill in the blank with a PC answer.

Honestly, would you want your daughter to emulate her?

In conclusion, whether you choose to look at PC, as 'Cultural Marxism,' (with its roots going back as far as the early 1900s), which those on the right may do or as simply a means to be polite and non-offensive, it surely has gone too far when a 90-year-old veteran of World War II can recite that fact that we are not supposed to use the word 'God.'

Holiday Celebrations Guidelines E-Mail

Sent from the U of M Office of Equal Opportunity and Affirmative Action 12/6/11

Dear all,

We understand that the holiday season is an exciting time to celebrate and foster community. With that in mind, we send the following recommendations to encourage office holiday activities that are respectful of religious diversity:

  • Instead of "holiday" parties use a winter celebration or year-end celebration theme.
  • Do not use invitations that reflect any particular religion - keep it neutral and related to winter (i.e. Snow, Snowflakes, winter activities like skating).
  • Decorations, music and food should be general, and not specific to any religion. Remember to also be mindful and respectful of any dietary restrictions and provide options.
  • Individuals may display expressions of their religious faith in their own personal space, but not in public areas and within reason.
  • Re-evaluate long standing practices, such as "Secret Santa," partnerships with outside organizations/charities, and ask how inclusive these really are.
  • Encourage individuals to express their concerns/objections and provide information for anonymous reporting options.
  • Be mindful that there are holidays and special dates throughout the year. Be respectful of these dates and plan meetings and events around them.
  • Be consistent. Try to be flexible with the needs and scheduling of individuals for holidays throughout the year.
  • If you do not know if you need to approach someone in your department about the expression of their faith or you are concerned that there are inappropriate religious celebrations in your work or learning environment please contact the EOAA at (612) 624-9547.

    Thank you very much and enjoy the beginning of winter!

    Kimberly Hewitt, Director

    Equal Opportunity and Affirmative Action.

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