Words define what were thinking and even determine how we and others see the world. The words we choose to describe people, places, things and events obviously do make a difference, and weve had great thinkers, from Orwell to Derrida to Strunk & White, prove this to us.
Having acknowledged the above, I admit that there is still a certain side of me that wants to tell people who seem obsessed with politically correct (PC) language to take a flying long jump at the moon. Dont get me wrong: politically correct terminology is important for all of the reasons stated above and more. Facts, thoughts and ideas should be conveyed in an inclusive and sensitive manner (unless, of course, they happen to fall on an editorial page). Its just that it sometimes becomes difficult to listen to those who champion the need for PC language when they instead sound like theyre stumping for a politicalor papaloffice. Additionally, many of us (myself included) who routinely argue for the merits of PCness will admit in our weaker moments that we too frequently belong to a club that might just as well be called the Society for People Who Care Strongly About Something for Seven Days Then Move On to Another Cause.
Maybe thats why I sometimes become confused about what to do when witnessing TV or news radio broadcasts that deal with hearing loss. These broadcasts are frequently informative, well-balanced and thoughtfully produced, and they provide good, basic advice on what to do if you or someone you know has a hearing loss. Recently, some of these features have even mentioned quality-of-life issues and have related hearing loss to general physical and psychosocial health issues. These are all great things. But, at the end of the features, the news anchor will invariably make some brief, stupid remark that diminishes the impact of the entire segment. The comments can range from the innocuous (e.g., Well, I hope you could hear that!) to the downright offensive (e.g., My Grandma has a hearing loss and its really cute how she mistakes the things we say). Similar comments are almost never made in reference to other disabilities. Imagine if Dan Rather said, My near-sighted nephew stumbles around my sisters house, but we just ignore it because we dont think glasses will do him any good.
I dont want to become one of those humorless people who go through life being offended by everything they see or hear. The world is too beautiful (and funny) and our time here is too short for that. Additionally, I want to reward, not chastise, media personnel who are bright enough to place hearing health care issues in front of their audiences. But there have been some really excellent hearing health care news segments subordinated to footnote status due to the unthoughtful remarks of a news anchor or commentator looking for a cheap laugh.
People who are championing a cause need to be heardloudly and clearly. And sometimes those people need to risk being called overly touchy. Hearing loss is an important health care issue, and it is a disability that can have very unfunny, negative consequences on a persons life. There are 28 million people in the U.S. who suffer from hearing loss and less than 7 million of those people do something about it. So folks, maybe it is time to get PC about these remarks, to get over the risk of being called touchy and to get out those pens!