There are primarily two sides to the argument surrounding political correctness. One side believes that people should be free to say whatever they wish. The other thinks that people should be respectful of the beliefs of others. As the holidays fast approach, this is an issue sure to raise discussion around the dinner table.
Created as a way to spread cultural Marxism by a German think-tank in the 1920s, the term “politically correct” (and the practice of being PC) has become pervasive in contemporary American culture. It has spawned the hilarious “almost politically correct redneck” meme and multiple UrbanDictionary definitions of varying thought as well as constant discussion. However, while there is value in respecting others and encouraging others to do the same (the R-word campaign comes to mind), our culture is far too sensitive already.
On one side, there are the folks that will die before they sacrifice their Christmas spirit or give in to the 'yuppie-left' telling them how to speak. On the other, folks who will spend their last breath to tell the 'religious-right' that it is rude, ignorant, and wrong to disrespect people by wishing them a Merry Christmas if they happen to be Jewish, atheist, or from any other belief. Of course, the former conveniently forgets that modern Christmas is based around the pagan Yule tree, while the latter misses the point that the holidays are supposed to be about spreading joy and giving to others — and any holiday greeting represents that.
As I mentioned before, I have to give more weight to the freedom of speech camp. Agustin Blazquez responds nicely to the politically correct argument for censorship:
“Logically and respectfully, how can one person's benign icon be objectionable to the point of banishment? Offer to add other people's icons. Make it a broader celebration. That's the Perfectly Correct American way.”
Even in a wider context there are many cases in which people cross from genuine expression to outright insults, and the politically correct movement has provided people with terms to disguise their racism or ignorance. “Dog whistle rhetoric” is speech that is targeted for a certain audience — and everyone else misses the joke. Politically correct phrases or words hide their true meaning by using presupposition and kidnapping the previous meaning of the words. The weakness of the politically correct movement is the fact that it fails to address the root of the problem: that people will not stop hating other people simply because they’re not allowed to use a term with a stigmatized connotation. A racist may be forced to quit using “nigger,” or a homophobe, “faggot,” but that does not change their attitude toward the group. Instead, all that is accomplished is the internalization of that hatred – an ironic twist that raises the issue of whether or not people we disagree with have the right to free speech (hint: they do).
As with most problems in the United States today, I offer one 'simple' solution: education. Introduce people to other people of different cultures, educate them on the values and strength of diversity (an often forgotten sentiment in a melting pot of immigrants), and allow people to speak as they will. There will always be people who have different beliefs than you. Correcting others speech is as disrespectful as the offending remark, even if it is as sadistic as “merry Christmas.” As rude as their remark is to you, your moral indignation is to them.