We have forgotten Common Sense in our Social Policy

At the risk of being “politically incorrect,” I think It is time to have a frank talk about “political correctness.”

I fully appreciate the idea behind the term, defined as “the avoidance of expression or action that are perceived to exclude, marginalize, or insult groups of people who are discriminated against.” It is simply common sense, especially when it refers to mitigating something that is simply gratuitous offense, like the use of a derogatory term.

Often what is labeled politically correct is what my friend Greg DePriest calls, “intentionality.” We often see the world through our own filter. We like who we like. We listen to the things that reinforce our view of the world. We make ourselves, our group, more important. This is understandable, but it makes us smaller. It breaks us down. It pulls us apart, rather than builds a strong community.

We must be intentional about the way we reach out to those that are “unlike” ourselves. In doing so, we make ourselves better. We make the whole greater than the sum of the parts.

For example, it is not “political correctness” to celebrate the deeds of African-American soldiers as specific examples of bravery. It seems appropriate to single out such pieces of our history precisely because they have been overlooked in the past. That is simply acknowledging the contributions of a minority group to the greater society.

Yet, with all things, we can go too far. I have grown uncomfortable with “politically correct” as a term. The concept has become too encompassing and overreaching.

It seems disparaging to say that we have become too politically correct. That statement diminishes some things that are important. Rather, I would say, “We have lost our common sense,” particularly in the realm of social policy.

For example, it seems that the issue of who can marry whom, while divisive, actually has a fairly simple solution. The issue is about two, related but very different, concepts: government and religion.

The religious component, namely marriage, is about the covenant two people make with each other and their God. The dictates of your beliefs rule that relationship. The government really has no business in that realm.

On the other hand, the government component deals with rights and privileges we grant with respect to finances and legal protections. For example, the marriage tax deduction or the rights of survivorship. These are laws of man, distinct from a covenant before God.

Why do we not separate them? Put “marriage” back in the place it belongs. Marriage follows the dictates of one’s beliefs. Different religions can marry or not marry who they wish, without retribution.

Conversely, that ceremony ought not confer government-derived perks. In order to receive them, you must undergo a “civil union” performed by a government official according to the legally enacted laws of the land. In that respect, holding that particular government position entails granting those legally given privileges.

Simply put, a marriage is not a civil ceremony and vise versa. We should “Render unto Caesar the things that are Caesar’s, and unto God the things that are God’s.” Perhaps the real problem is that we have let government encroach on too many areas of our lives. Getting them out, means that we need to extract outside influences from government as well.

Yet another issue has raised its head, the transgender bathroom issue. Again, I will not comment on the question of one’s gender identity versus one’s biological makes-up. I understand that people believe what they believe. I do not know the heart of another person, nor do I pretend to comprehend God’s plan for them. However, I do understand the anatomy we were born with.

It seems a rather straight forward issue when it comes to the appropriate public place in which to drop one’s waste.

As a matter of policy, I find the new interpretations (“let the patron decide”) inconsistent with previous dictates, much less common sense. Recognized customary laws deal with standards of community that have been long-established in a given locale. A number of years ago, we were required to design-in gender-specific restrooms for commercial buildings, regardless of whether they were private “one-hole” affairs.  it difficult to accept that somehow none of that matters anymore.

Having said that, I have no issue with a private business, like Target, deciding on a contrary policy. If you don’t like it, don’t shop there. In the end, it is simple economics. Put your money where your beliefs are or acknowledge that the selection at Target really is more important than your principles. Vote with your feet.

Sadly, even here there seems to be a common-sense, yet overlooked, fix. Simply re-designate the already existing “family” restroom designed to address particular privacy issues. It seems fairly easy to add an additional sign that would satisfy the needs of a group that may feel mistreated, without imposing a hardship on someone else and without imposing a financial cost. It is a one-at-a-time use and privacy is protected for all.

A similar approach could be taken with any lockable, single fixture facilities. If simple acknowledgement is what is required to resolve a contentious social issue, it seems pointless to create a fight where none is needed. Likewise, it is not beyond the realm of reason to believe that the lack of such facilities in any one establishment imposes an insurmountable burden on such a group.

The upshot of all of this is that we appear to have lost our way. Rather than being intentional about our inclusivity, we have become exclusive. In trying to care for one group, we rebuff another, and often for reasons that lack simple common sense. Perhaps we ought to return to that standard when we set about to make things “right.”


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