Proudly Christian and Conservative, but No Longer ‘Politically Incorrect’

By Esther O'Reilly Published on August 8, 2016

I remember when I wore the label “politically incorrect” like a badge of honor.

I remember dinner-table conversations and civics lessons explaining the Democrats’ methodical, decades-in-the-making plan to dominate the social sector and the marketplace of ideas. I remember learning how they appointed themselves the gatekeepers of everyday speech, policing the language of the unenlightened masses.

Things that had carried no political baggage whatsoever (like calling a black guy a black guy instead of “an African-American”) were suddenly no longer the done thing. Mothers whose kids used the word “Indian” began to reflexively correct them: “Don’t say ‘Indian,’ say ‘Native American,’” because that was the “politically correct” thing to do.

I was taught from earliest childhood to chafe under and rebel against this. I wasn’t like my friends. I was different in a good way. I was politically incorrect. I learned to view all of entertainment, pop culture and politics through this lens. I got pretty darn good at it, too. It was like a game: Spot the political correctness! By the time I was 10, I was as jaded and cynical as your grandma. (Not that grandma, your other grandma, the grumpy one.)

2016: I’m more jaded and cynical than ever, and I am ready to put the phrase “politically incorrect” to bed.

How did this happen? How did a card-carrying member of the Vast Right-Wing Conspiracy wind up here? Well, first of all, I’m still a proud member of the Vast Right-Wing Conspiracy, even though the bumper sticker went the way of all flesh with the family Tracer (RIP). So yes, Matt Walsh is my spirit animal, and no, I still don’t have that many friends my own age, thanks for asking.

However, the rise of Donald Trump has opened up a strange new America to my generation. It has shown me things about my country that I almost wish I could un-know. But, now that I know them, I am forced to acknowledge that this isn’t the ‘90s anymore, even though a Clinton is running for President.

You see, in the ‘90s, you could roll your eyes at political correctness, because only a great fool or a liberal (but I repeat myself) would take you for a racist cave troll if you weren’t politically correct. This was not to say there were no such entities as racist cave trolls. We knew they were out there, somewhere, in their caves. But they weren’t part of the cultural conversation, and they certainly weren’t a voting bloc. They were the bugbears used to scare kids away from voting for decent Republicans.

But we are living in a brave new world. A 21st century world. A world where if you give a troll an iPhone, he’ll want a Twitter account to go with it.

You never thought you’d live to see the day when the Republican presidential candidate would fumble the easiest question in politics. If you heard the phrase “hate mail,” you would immediately think of the unhinged left, but you’d never dream that staunch conservatives like David French and Ben Shapiro would get death threats from people with an “R” on their voter registration card.

In French’s case, the vile threats and memes also extended to his adopted African daughter. And when Ben Shapiro and his wife welcomed their second child, his Twitter feed filled with people cursing the day another Jewish baby was born. What did these men do to deserve such unadulterated hate? They committed the unforgivable sin of speaking against Donald Trump.

You couldn’t have imagined that a U.S. politician on the national stage would not merely survive but thrive by pandering to such a vile crew. That he would encourage violence, demand loyalty, spread base insults. And you wouldn’t have believed that merely by criticizing such a candidate, you, too, could become “politically correct.”

Being politically incorrect used to mean something in this culture. It represented an adherence to principle and personal integrity. It represented individuality and independence of mind. How ironic that it now represents a pledge of allegiance to a man who has manifested many of the characteristics of a decadent demagogue.

There are some hills we should die on when it comes to cultural labels. We should never hesitate to call ourselves conservatives, or evangelical Christians, no matter how these monikers are abused. To be conservative or Christian is to be anchored in something timeless.

Yet, any phrase explicitly involving the word “political” is, by definition, sensitive to the politics of the day. While it’s natural to mourn the fact that a good idea has been co-opted by evil people, there is no shame in abandoning a phrase that no longer conveys meaningful information about our cultural identity. Those of us who know what “political incorrectness” used to mean may stubbornly continue to fly that linguistic flag, but to what end, and at what cost?

Is the pleasure of describing ourselves with a phrase that has outlived its usefulness worth the price of friends we will never make because they’re not sure they can trust us to be rational, decent or civil? I submit that it is not. The trolls have overrun this hill. Let them have it.

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