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I had the coolest professor for my U.S. History class freshman year. The guy looked and sounded like he stepped right out of the ranks of the Confederate army. He had a scar down the left side of his face, a thick southern drawl, and a beard that would make Brett Keisel feel impotent. I loved going to his class, if for nothing else than to hear one of his long-winded explosions about the “War of Northern Aggression.” But his rants weren’t what they would seem; they were never yearning for the return of the Southern way of life or steeped in the refrain of “The South will rise again.” Instead, his diatribes would decry the deafness of the Union government during reconstruction and how the antebellum south is remembered for slavery in place of its simplistic beauty. He was a professor who made you think of things differently than you ever had before. He was the kind of teacher whose lessons followed you, the kind of person who you remembered long after you had left his influence.
Before our third exam, I decided I would go to his office hours and see if I could get a little help with my grade — just to make sure he knew my face and understood that I actually did give a shit about my GPA. When I walked into his room and sat down, I was not given extra credit opportunities or an extensive review of the test material, but instead was treated to the incredible story of his life. He had met his wife during his graduate studies at the University of Virginia. Unfortunately she had passed from breast cancer six years prior to our meeting. He could trace his lineage back to the War of 1812. His interest in history came from his mother, who had always told him he was supposed to be born on November 19th (the day the Gettysburg Address was given), but two days before the date, she just couldn’t hold on any longer. I was enthralled with this man. His way of speaking made everything he said seem meaningful, like it was the key to living one part of life.
After an hour, I rose to leave, and he sent me on my way with this parting gift: “Remember son, life is all about perspective. To us, the Yankees were in the right, great liberators and repairers of the Union, but to a farmer in Georgia, they were devils who took the food from his children.” Those words have stuck with me for the many years since I moved on from his class.
Over this past summer, I saw an article in the school’s paper that my former professor’s contract was terminated before the fall semester. Some students had submitted formal complaints that the way he taught his class was discriminatory and demeaned the severity of the subject matter. The university had to take action to save its ass, so one of the finest professors on campus was let go as a peace offering.
Long before the term “politically correct” became a rallying cry for the people who want to extract inconvenience out of life’s journey, it was used to describe the guidelines of decency. It was politically correct to ignore someone’s stutter, it was politically correct to treat your neighbors like they were human beings despite them being asswipes who dust glass bottles into your courtyard, and it was politically correct to wash your balls thoroughly if you expected her to end the night going down on you. So how in the hell did this happen? How the fuck did we go from courteousness to censorship.
I am unable to produce a specific instance in recent history that caused the meaning of “politically correct” to alter so drastically, but it doesn’t feel like it was a gradual transition. Regardless, we need to understand that the current state of that term is fucking poisonous. We as individuals are now more obsessed with building walls around our ideas and convictions so they cannot be attacked rather than refining them with further knowledge and research. No one wants to hear the other side of the story. No one wants to be open to the idea that what they believe might be wrong, or even not totally 100% correct.
In the end, the state of society cost my professor his job. A man who had so much wisdom to give, tossed by the wayside, chalked up as collateral fucking damage in a horrible revolution. The issue wasn’t that he avoided acknowledging the intrinsic horrors of the material he taught, it was that he inspired thought that wasn’t in line with the narrative that the world wants to tell. The “politically correct” movement is no longer rooted in the promotion of decency. Somewhere along our journey, we have forgotten that challenges and obstacles make our virtues and beliefs better. They strengthen us as human beings. I hope that soon we remember the value that strife and disagreement bring to this life, because the more we fear what we do not accept, the more the PC crusade will take from us all..