Here we go again.
Regular readers of this column know that I have a number of pet peeves, one of which is our obsession with political correctness. However, I understand that our culture has been changing with regard to such things as gender roles. So, years ago, I stopped using the term “mailman” and have consistently used “postal carrier” as a more fair depiction of those who are now delivering an onslaught of Christmas catalogues.
Although I don’t really see any harm in calling the person on an airplane who points to the exits or explains about the thing that drops down so you can breathe while the plane nose-dives into the jungle (I mean rain forest) as a steward or stewardess, I’ve submitted to referring to him, her, or confused-about-the-whole-gender thing as a flight assistant. But, I’ve drawn the line at referring to the history of Amelia Earhart as the herstory of an aviator (or is it aviatrix?).
In a previous column, I related the story of a college professor who, in a prepublication review of one of my text books, suggested changing John Donne’s “No man is an island” to “No person is an island.” Of course, that was a direct quote, and one can’t change what was said or written to suit the current climate. Likewise, I once repeated a citation by James Baldwin:
“God gave Noah the rainbow sign,
No more water, the fire next time.”
In “The Fire Next Time,” Baldwin, an African American author, informed the reader that the lines came from “an old Negro spiritual.” However, an editor changed the words to “an African American spiritual.” Okay. I was all right with that because it was not part of the quotation, although it was a correct citation.
This past week, PETA (People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals) jumped into the political correctness cesspool. Amy B. Wong of The Washington Post wrote, “The high-profile animal rights nonprofit organization tweeted a simple chart in an effort to help people remove speciesism from your daily conversations.”
The organization tweeted, “Words matter, and as our understanding of social justice evolves, our language evolves along with it.” The self-proclaimed protectors of animal sensitivity have offered some suggestions to assist those of us whose expressions may offend our non-human brothers and sisters.
Instead of saying “kill two birds with one stone,” say “feed two birds with one scone.” Perhaps the politically correct author of this seemingly innocent alternative never baked a scone, which is an unsweetened or lightly sweetened pastry made from flour, butter, and milk.
Of course, butter and milk are animal byproducts.
And, in an age-old tradition, scones are best served with high (as in afternoon) tea and topped with clotted cream, another animal byproduct, the good pro-animal-dignity folks advise us not to say that the Federal Drug Administration is using us as guinea pigs for its newest wonder drug. It suggests that we refer to ourselves as test tubes.
These people obviously were nowhere near the chemistry classroom at Cubberley High School in Palo Alto where my lab partner, Jimmy Bishop, and I accidentally broke nearly all the test tubes that we got our hands on, along with a small mound of other glassware.
In a weird attempt at poetic consistency, PETA asks that instead of using the expression “to beat a dead horse” we substitute “to feed a fed horse.” Well, here’s the thing. If a horse has already been fed, wouldn’t we then be force-feeding the horse. And, doesn’t this bring mental images of how foie gras is made?
To the uninitiated, foie gras (French for “fat liver”) is produced by a process known as “gravage.” This is a method of force-feeding ducks or geese by inserting feeding tubes down their throats and shoving enough corn meal or other product into the birds to enlarge their livers to ten times their usual volume.
In recent years, a number of countries have passed laws against the practice of gravage, citing it as a form of animal cruelty. However, French law proclaims: “Foie gras belongs to the protected cultural and gastronomical heritage of France.” Incidentally, the United States is the largest producer of foie gras, although many of our retailers decline to stock it.
There’s more. A graphic that accompanies the PETA tweet indicates that “take the flower by the thorns” is an acceptable alternative to “take the bull by the horns.” At the risk of offending a few readers, I have to ask:
“Who the hell picks up a flower by the thorns?”
On the rare occasion when I trim my rose bushes, I try very hard to avoid the thorns. If one buys roses from a good florist, the thorns have been removed. And, setting aside the gross stupidity of the PETA suggestion, what is wrong with “taking a bull by the horns?” Does touching or holding a bull’s horns in any way harm the bull?
Honestly, I don’t know, but I doubt it. Maybe some 4-H Club member can enlighten me.
Bacon and bagels
Finally, the animal-friendly organization admonishes those of us who refer to a wage-earner as one who brings home the bacon. PETA states, “Just as it became unacceptable to use racist, homophobic, or ableist language, phrases that trivialize cruelty to animals will vanish as more people begin to appreciate animals for who they are and start ‘bringing home the bagels’ instead of the bacon.” Ableist?
Of course, along with everyone I know, I don’t advocate or defend cruelty to animals. But, it’s difficult to take seriously an organization that erected a billboard of a crab with the caption “I’m me, not meat” during the Baltimore Seafood Festival last summer. Or wanted to construct a memorial in Brunswick, Maine, after a truck carrying lobsters overturned on Route 1. Or tried to place a billboard at the location where a truck overturned in New Mexico, killing four cows.
Now, at this point, you may ask, “Do you think that PETA has gone too far with its anti-animal-cruelty campaign?”
My answer is, “Does a bear perform its biologically necessary function in the woods?” Or, as PETA might put it: “Does a Bavarian spit in the Black Forest?”
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Jim Glynn may be contacted at email@example.com.