Cultural Confucian


WASHINGTON -- When I was 11 years old, I teamed up with my cousin Margaret to enter a school traffic-safety contest. The challenge was to create a poster for a citywide campaign. Margaret was a talented artist, so she did the illustration. I was a talented smart aleck, so I wrote the words.

What we came up with was a stereotypical image of a wise old Chinese man with a Fu Manchu mustache. His hands were tucked away in the commodious sleeves of his stereotypically Chinese gold-brocaded robe. He was looking right and left. The slogan was:

“Confucius say, / Look both way!”

And yes, we won. We got congratulated in person by the mayor of New York.

My point is, things have gotten a lot less lenient in our schools regarding matters of political correctness, particularly involving so-called “cultural appropriation” and/or perceived ethnic mockery. If some kids submitted our traffic-safety poster today, they’d be frog-marched to the principal’s office, lectured on norms of basic human decency, assigned to a political re-education camp, etc.

As a card-carrying knee-jerk liberal, I find myself -- on this issue and pretty much this issue alone -- at variance with most of my political peers.

I am appalled at the modern sissification of discourse, the fragile-flower atmosphere, the coddling of sensibilities, particularly on college campuses.

Alas, this has become a personal problem, because my lefty politics are the part of me that keeps me feeling young. It might be delusional, but at 65 it is all I have. And when I go off on this subject, I don’t find myself with a sympathetic audience, respectful in the presence of an esteemed elder; I see these young people making furtive eye contact with each other, the way one might do at the Thanksgiving table when old Uncle Edwin starts ranting about “two boys kissing in the television set.”

But I do not yield, and this is worrisome territory. It makes me worry about our country. As vile as his overall message was, Donald Trump hit pay dirt when he ventured into this arena of political correctness. If Trump could get people like me reluctantly nodding their heads, he was on to something.

How bad has it gotten? It’s gotten so bad that it is sometimes no longer possible to tweeze satire from reality.


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Copyright 2016 Washington Post Writers Group


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