Commentary: Ask grandmothers about political correctness

Grandmothers have wisdom for these times and we need to hear their voices.

When I was teaching sociology, I began the first class by asking each student “who was the most influential person in your life?” Grandmothers won hands down. When pressed to explain why, their response was always something like this:

“I always knew she loved me and she would tell it like it is.”

That was my experience with my grandmother. She was tiny – less than 5 feet – proud, wise, loving and courageous. Most important, perhaps, she spoke her wisdom without fear of displeasing others. As someone who is now in that season of my life, I frequently reflect on what she would say about these political times.

About the subject of political correctness, she wouldn’t hesitate a moment. She would say “political correctness is kindness” – choosing to not use words and behavior that you know are hurtful, shaming and abusive to one or more groups of people.

She would be clear, as well, about anyone, most especially a national political candidate, making fun of a physically handicapped person, describing unattractive women as dogs, pigs or slobs and describing attractive women as “a nice piece of ass.” My grandmother would tell it like it is. “That is unkind, shaming, abusive and shameful behavior. It is simply unacceptable.”

She and I talked more than once about lying, so I am confident I know what she would say if I were to ask her about someone who deliberately lies in order to make people angry and outraged – such as Donald Trump telling his audiences: “Hillary Clinton wants to take away all of your guns and leave you defenseless.” She would say, “Lies grow and spread unless you have the courage to confront them for what they are.”

I imagine myself asking her opinion on Trump’s temperament with the following examples: urging supporters to “beat the crap out of him (a protester) and I’ll pay your legal fees;” reacting to the Democratic National Convention by saying publicly, “I’d like to hit some of those speakers so hard they would never recover, especially the little guy.”

Grandmother would say simply, “He’s a bully.”

Remembering school yard bullies from my youth, I always felt sick not only watching the bully pick on the little kid, but also watching the gathering crowd around him. When the bully was finished – had fully shamed and humiliated the other kid – he/she would stop. Then, the bully would look around for crowd approval. Members of the crowd would respond by loudly affirming the abuse, applauding, giggling nervously or smiling self consciously. The bully would then walk off with his/her buddies bragging about being tough.

I had the same question back then that I do now. Why did some kids seem to enjoy watching the abuse? Why do adults at Trump rallies cheer him on, or yell out threats and obscenities regarding Hillary Clinton?

Grandmother would likely say, “Many people are afraid and think a strong dictator-like person is brave and can help them feel better, even safer. But such people are bullies and you need to stand up to them.”

I looked to her then, as I do now, as a reflection of the wisdom, strength, love and courage of grandmothers. This is a time when those qualities are sorely needed. Whether you are a Democrat or Republican, a “real” grandmother or one who is in that season of your life, you have a responsibility to the generations that follow. Speak out, have talks with your grandchildren and children, join others or organize your own group of grandmothers. It’s not about being politically correct, it is about standing up to a bully and confronting lies. It’s about refusing to let bullies, whether in politics or elsewhere, get by with shaming, lying, blaming and abusing other people. Tell it like it is, please!

Laura Crites is a Mount Jackson resident.

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