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.