Going Tapeless

I may have missed my window of opportunity in posting about NPR firing Juan Williams, but the subject matter—that of political correctness—still weighs on my mind.

For those of you who may not be familiar with the story, the evening of Wednesday, October 20, NPR fired Juan Williams for comments he made to host Bill O’Reilly, Monday on The O’Reilly Factor:

“But when I get on a plane, I got to tell you, if I see people who are in Muslim garb and I think, you know, they’re identifying themselves first and foremost as Muslims, I get worried. I get nervous.”

Later in the interview, Williams said it was wrong to generalize about Muslims, just as it is wrong to generalize about Christians, such as Oklahoma City bomber Timothy McVeigh. His point was that Americans need to come to grips with their prejudices.

However, NPR chose not to take the entire context of Mr. Williams’ commentary. I believe they were wrong for doing so. Though I do not agree with Juan Williams on many issues, I listen to him often, and have a high respect for his honest, respectful and open dialogue. Are we supposed to express only that which is in total agreement to the opposition?

It is NPR’s loss.

More and more, I am frustrated by the degree to which “political correctness” limits our freedom of speech. It is turning us into mealy-mouthed wimps, afraid of speaking our minds about a variety of subjects. We should always seek to be respectful, but if we are so afraid of being offensive that we don’t express our opinions, we might as well walk around with duct tape over our mouths.

Over the last week, as the news media bloviated about the right or wrong of Mr. Williams’ firing, I tried to put myself in the position of those who may have been offended by his statements. I imagined someone being afraid of me, a half-Japanese mother of two, a struggling novelist who lives on a dirt road and therefore drives a dirty SUV. Whether or not that fear was rational, I came to the conclusion I would want to know about it, so that through open dialogue, we could hopefully alleviate those fears. Whether or not I was offended, I would want to know.

I’ll admit, I am sometimes one of those mealy-mouthed wimps, afraid of expressing an opinion that might offend, hurt or anger someone. I often walk away, and miss the opportunity to have an open dialogue. Sadly, it means we also missed learning something about the other that might have brought us closer to understanding.

So, thanks to a fellow writer friend, Greg Camp, who posted a blog about Juan Williams’ firing, I decided to “go tapeless” and post this blog. Better late than never. And, if I have offended anyone, I’m sorry. At least now, you know how I feel.

Click here to read Greg Camp’s blog.

This entry was posted in Juan Williams, NPR, political correctness, politics. Bookmark the permalink.

4 Responses to Going Tapeless

  1. dormouse says:

    I worry that persons in Muslim dress suffer from suspicion and fear wherever they go in this country. I imagine people who are truly bad guys go incognito. I wish that everyone could speak freely, but admit that there are people who do speak freely (ie. some of the 'preachers' who come to campus, for example) that I would cheerfully tell to shut up, but don't. So– no real solutions, here.


  2. Jan Morrill says:

    Dormouse, you're right – many people speak freely and without respect, which I think is a big reason for the necessity of "political correctness." Those who are so offensive have made it difficult for those of us who would like to speak freely to learn. Thanks for commenting!


  3. Greg Camp says:

    This raises the question of what exactly we mean by respect. I respect your right to believe whatever feels true to you. I respect your statements or opinions in so far as I have to understand them and hear them out before I can comment on them. Respect does not mean, however, that I have to agree with you.We get confused too often in thinking that respect means agreement or that disagreement can happen without understanding.


  4. Jan Morrill says:

    Well said, Greg. Problem with respect is, it's subjective. What one person thinks was said respectfully, another may take offense to. It makes the whole communication thing a real challenge.


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