The audacity of the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office in canceling the trademark of the Washington Redskins is frightening. When the government is in charge of deciding what is offensive and what is not, and has the power to punish the “offenders,” we move further away from a free society and closer to a tyrannical nanny state.
We are not talking about a political issue that should have Democrats and Republicans coming down on different sides here, but rather the fundamental freedom to express oneself, which is a part of the fabric of America. In the case of Dan Snyder, who owns the Washington Redskins, he is being demonized for standing up for basic American principles. The team bore the same name when he purchased it in good faith. There was no indication at the time that subsequent demands for a name change would emerge, costing him millions of dollars in related expenses, not to mention lawsuits he might encounter by other businesses that could be injured by such a move.
There is no indication that many in the Native American community are upset after decades of the team’s prominent and proud display of its mascot and name. This appears to be yet another case of purposefully induced hypersensitivity, providing yet another opportunity for unnecessary heavy-handed government tactics to infringe upon the peaceful existence of Americans.
I have had the pleasure of meeting Mr. Snyder, who is far from the demonic characterization seen in the gullible press that allows itself to be manipulated by those wishing to bring about fundamental change in America. I do not doubt for one minute that the Redskins organization would change the name tomorrow if it thought it was truly offensive to most Native Americans. Also, the majority of American citizens are still decent people who would not only demand a name change, but would vote with their feet and purses in a way that would send a loud and convincing message — if they thought the name was offensive. It appears that many have forgotten the power of free-market economic forces and have instead placed their trust in flawed government forces. Historically, individual freedoms vanish as government interventions increase.
Traditionally, sports teams choose mascots and names that bring them pride, rather than shame. There are numerous sports teams throughout the nation with colorful names and symbols, who are not out to offend anyone. In a large, diverse society, it is likely that almost anything is offensive to someone. I suspect there are those who are offended by the fact that the Duke University basketball team is called the Blue Devils. Some would ridiculously opine that this nomenclature pays homage to the forces of evil. Should we cater to such foolishness, or should we grow up and focus on real issues, such as unacceptable rates of unemployment, terrorism, energy development, education, poverty, a stagnant economy, massive corruption, illegal immigration, growing national debt and many other things of greater importance?
We, the American people, must cease being distracted by peripheral issues and demand that our government officials focus their attention on the myriad problems that threaten to destroy our way of life. Like the ancient Romans, we are in danger of being distracted by relatively unimportant issues while our society crumbles beneath us. I challenge those who say I am exaggerating to a debate on this issue.
Many people equate political correctness with kind and compassionate speech. The two things are vastly different with very different purposes. Political correctness is meant to control thought patterns and speech content, creating unanimity and societal conformity, while kind and compassionate speech is meant to take into consideration the feelings and circumstances of others without compromising the truth. It is a much better alternative. We need to be wary of those who attempt to convince groups of people that they should be offended by a word, phrase or symbol instead of concentrating on the real message being conveyed. These people remind me of the troublemakers in grade school who enjoyed watching the fallout from their devious ploys.
In today’s politically correct society, we are in danger of extinguishing interpersonal communications altogether for fear of offending someone. All of this would be comically absurd if it were not so tragic and such an immense departure from the vision of a free and prosperous society that was envisioned by our Founders.
Rather than concentrating on unanimity of thought and speech, we must concentrate on extracting the meaning of verbal communications. Examining every word or phrase for possible offense is beyond stupid. More importantly, it is divisive and destructive. We must outright reject those who try to manipulate emotions for their own political advantage. The Founders of our nation were very concerned about what would happen if the populace became uninformed and refused to think for themselves. They feared the day when Americans could be easily led and manipulated, which would lead to a drastic alteration of our nation.
The power to stop the erosion of our values and to restore common sense and prosperity to our nation is in our own hands. We must shake off the passivity and vigilantly guard against manipulation.
Ben S. Carson is professor emeritus of neurosurgery at Johns Hopkins University and author of the new book “One Nation: What We Can All Do To Save America’s Future” (Sentinel).