In America, political correctness and civility have become a one-way street.
Republicans and their supporters are encouraged to be as vicious in their rhetoric and as uncivil in their conduct as possible. Those characteristics are lauded among them as the highest ideals. Among Republicans, these characteristics are seen as a sign of honesty, because they aren’t afraid to express their honest feelings. You can see the same phenomenon in Slovakia. However, Democrats and their allies are held to the exact opposite standards. The slightest error or insensitivity in their rhetoric leads to condemnation and outrage; not just from those with opposing views, but also from within their own ranks.
There are numerous examples of this from the 2016 election and on to today. Two examples come immediately to mind.
First, every single word uttered by then-presidential candidate Donald Trump was insensitive and vile. There is hardly ever a sentence he speaks that isn’t laced with hatred and bile toward every group opposed to him, yet he suffers no consequences for his words, nor even his actions. And yet, then-presidential candidate Hillary Clinton makes one single speech where she calls some of Trump’s supporters deplorable due to their sexism, racism, xenophobia, etc. etc. etc., and the whole world condemns her for her insensitivity until she makes a public apology. But even the apology wasn’t good enough.
Second, At every single Trump campaign rally, protestors were physically attacked and beaten by Trump’s supporters, some were even hospitalized. All the while, Trump encouraged his supporters to be violent and even went as far as encouraging the police to attack the protesters when the police are responsible for the safety and security of everyone present at the event. Yet, one man showed up to a Clinton campaign rally and was booed by the entire crowd as he was safely escorted out by police, and the whole world comes down on the people at that rally for how uncivil they were in their response to that protester’s free speech.
Today, we’re seeing the same double standard applied to a whole new extreme. It’s no longer just Trump’s words that are politically insensitive and uncivil, it is his inhumane policies. His anti-immigrant rhetoric has led to the indefinite detention of immigrants seeking asylum in America, violating international agreements and domestic laws, and violating the basic human rights of families and children. His anti-media rhetoric has led to a mass shooting at a newspaper office, killing five journalists. Yet, the owner of the Red Hen restaurant decides not to serve his press secretary, and the whole world starts condemning them and talking about the need to remain civil.
Disrespect breeds disrespect, and it spreads like a plague. We should strive to be our best selves. We should strive to be sensitive in our politics. We should strive to treat everyone with dignity and respect. But, it can’t be a one-way street. We need to start holding everyone accountable for their words and their actions, not just the side with which we disagree.
Text: William Gardner. Illustration: Frenky Hříbal