Rightly Wrong: Losing sight of what really matters

It seems to me that society has lost sight of what really matters, what issues are worth addressing.  Instead of tackling problems that have an immense impact on all of our lives, we concentrate on the benign, the weird, and the downright ridiculous.  

I can’t be the only one that finds it odd that in a world where there are still gay people being killed for who they love, children dying of thirst and hunger, and Taylor Swift a best selling artist, people spend time worrying about ‘trigger warnings’ and ‘micro-agressions’ and rewriting the word ‘women’ to ‘womyn’ to get the men out of the word.  We forget to recognize how great a life we lead when we have time to bicker over such subtleties as pronouns.  I don’t think a sweatshop worker has the energy to complain if someone accidentally assumes he is a human when he identifies more as a squirrel.  That is a real thing, by the way; it’s called species dysphoria.  You learn something new everyday I suppose.

When did subtleties of language and attitude become our first priority?  I suppose we should have seen it coming in this trend of caring about the little while ignoring the big.  The Arctic is melting and oil companies are licking their chops at the prospect of getting access to the reserves that have not been available before, exacerbating the global warming that caused the disappearance of the ice in the first place.  Why aren’t we more concerned about that?  Because our time is being spent elsewhere, like on beauty campaigns dedicated to convincing everyone that no matter how shockingly large they are, how little they exercise, everyone needs to pat them on the back and tell them they’re beautiful.  When did we become so weak?  So thin-skinned?  People often call me a jerk, so I guess instead of trying to become a better person or accepting that I tend to be a bit rude, I should convince everyone that I’m not the problem, they are.

This policing of words raised its head with the UNH language guide.  Remember that language guide that gave our university national attention over the summer?  I don’t think it was positive attention.  The guide said words like ‘poor’ and ‘homeless’ were less than ideal and should be replaced with ‘low economic status related to a person’s education, occupation and income’ and ‘person-experiencing homelessness.’  Even our university’s president Mark Huddleston was appalled by the guide.  Or was a person-experiencing-appalledness.

“The only UNH policy on speech is that it is free and unfettered on our campuses. It is ironic that what was probably a well-meaning effort to be ‘sensitive’ proves offensive to many people, myself included.” Mark, you dog.

The point is that in this intense policing of language, this obscene self-censorship, this publicly induced infringement on the First Amendment, we are losing sight of what really matters.  How can we talk about intense weather systems if we are having arguments over what gender the storm is, and after that is decided, what name is appropriate to call him or her.

There is a sense of imperviousness to these arguments, a distinct close-mindedness.  Liberals, who pride themselves on being accepting of a new idea are now so set on open-mindedness that they are becoming the opposite – “the regressive left,” as the phrase has been coined.  

Let’s talk about Caitlyn Jenner.  In fact, for a while, that’s all we spent our time doing. While every magazine was sporting a picture of this former male-Olympian-turned-female, there was a massive heat wave in India that killed more than 2,500 people.  But instead of discussing the ramifications of the heat wave and what climate change could mean for the region in the future, we were saturated with what kind lipstick Bruce, now Caitlyn, gets to wear.  In this new age of censorship, acceptance is the most important thing, not the lives of thousands.  And it didn’t matter that Caitlyn killed someone with her car a few months before her big transformation, or that she is part of the most materialistic, empty-headed, megalomaniacal family that contributes nothing to the betterment of society.  What matters is acceptance.  I mean, Kanye married one of that group, if that means anything.  Kanye who said “I am Shakespeare in the flesh.”  If we get to throw out alter egos, can I be The Dude?  It’s like, just my opinion, man.

I think people get involved in the Caitlyn Jenner issue because it is an issue you can grasp, one you can control.  Why concentrate on the USA Freedom Act passed in June, during the Jenner mania, which was the replacement for the Patriot Act?  A bill which many civil rights activists say still gives the government too much authority to invade our privacy.  It is easy to feel as though your voice doesn’t matter in that sphere.  But call someone transphobic online if they question where our national attention is pointed?  That feels good.

I do understand that sexuality and gender is something that people deal with, and as I’ve said before, I think people should be able to do whatever they want.  Gender neutral bathrooms and gender neutral locker rooms, sure, the more people I can have around to talk with while I’m pooping the better.  But I hope this issue will soon be irrelevant.  Gay or straight, male or female, whatever you want to do, do it, or him or her, can we just move on?  We have much bigger fish to fry than wondering what is or isn’t hanging between your legs and who you want to introduce it to.  

In order for society to continue moving forward, we need to address real issues.  We have extreme corruption in our political system, our climate is changing at an alarming rate, and we are stuck in never-ending wars. Let’s try to solve these issues, without constantly worrying about what is the politically correct thing to say.  Because a serious conversation is needed, and we all need to stop being over-sensitive.

Tim Drugan-Eppich is a senior majoring in English.