When I lived in Italy I would often hear from one of my lovers: “You’re too sensitive.” And this would then result in a diatribe of how “American political correctness” makes us too sensitive and we can’t take a joke.
While I believe my personal sensitivity has more to do with my natural state of being and less to do with being an American, I found this statement intriguing. My Italian lover would make racist comments and use words that I found offensive, and I know many other Americans — those damn, overly sensitive Yankees — would agree. But who is right in this situation?
Comedians often exploit this as they will tell jokes that are collectively offensive and highlight the politically correct (PC) aspect of the subject, leading us to either feel the inappropriateness of laughing or the rigidity of holding on too tight to a belief.
In these moments, people will often look around to make sure that their laughter is echoed by the majority and that they’re not going to look like a racist, sexist, ageist, bigot, leftist, or insensitive ass (if I missed a category, I apologize. I did not intentionally try to leave out any group or make anyone feel undervalued).
It’s not just handsome Italians and drunk comedians who think that being PC has gone too far. “A recent study found that a whopping 80 percent of the population believes ‘political correctness is a problem in our country,’” says Katherine Timpf in an article for the National Review. Apparently, Americans also realize the negative impact that being PC is having on our society.
Timpf tells us that it’s not just the older generations and disgruntled foreigners that are annoyed with American sensitivity: “Despite the reputation that millennials get for being too sensitive, 79 percent of respondents under the age of 24 actually reported [a distaste for political correctness].”
While it’s easy to sit back on the porch and watch as the world is quickly changing for the worse, it’s important to note that the way we got here is from all those people sitting on their porches who raised the succeeding generations. Millennials and Gen Zers didn’t magically get stabbed by a unicorn’s horn and become overly sensitive. It is a result of their upbringing and the problems (I mean “issues,” I mean “situations”…) in the generations prior.
So to say that we are too sensitive of a generation and too PC these days, would be echoed by 80% of the population (that was asked), however, to say that it’s from an unknown result would be false. The need for the PC lifestyle came from familial secrets and generations of “sit there and be quiet” parenting.
Therefore, the trajectory of our PC culture can be traced back through the lineage. But don’t worry, it won’t last. Just like strict parents who end up with rebellious teens who end up with discipline-craving children who end up strict, the cycle will repeat as people try their best to do their best.
Like any pendulum, it must swing both ways before leveling out and finding the middle. Give it another generation or two — after global warming has scorched the planet, the Apocalypse has struck, and millions of robots rule the world with Will Smith — and there’s nothing left to look back on. Then from that completely blank slate, determine whether or not we were all a little too sensitive.