We didn’t really know any “homos,” although I guess I did but didn’t realize it. In fact, a childhood friend came out as gay quite some time ago. But when we were kids it didn’t occur to me that he was gay. At the time all that mattered was he couldn’t play ball. I ridiculed him for that.
So now I refer to any member of the LGBT community with respect. Frankly, I try to refer to anyone with respect, even if I vehemently disagree with his or her personal, political, or religious beliefs. And God knows there are many who fit that category. But I care to not offend anyone if I don’t have to. It doesn’t take much effort. I just change my speech a little.
But somehow our citizens have decided that to be politically correct is bad. Why is that? I get that it’s confusing. When I was growing up Negro was the respectful term for people who now refer to themselves as either African-American or black. And I’m not sure I now know whether to use African-American or black. I tend to prefer black for a couple of reasons. First, it’s shorter and easier to say. But second, I know white African-Americans. When I visited South Africa I met many Africans who were white. I met Africans who were Jewish and white. If they moved to this country would I then refer to them as Jewish-African-Americans? How many hyphens am I supposed to put up with? The short answer is—if I want to respect someone—however many they want.
But lately my soapbox is about the word “old.” As I’ve written before, (http://www.nextavenue.org/growing-older-has-its-benefits/) being “older” is good. It means I didn’t die. That’s pretty much the only definition. I didn’t die so I continue to live and each day, each moment, I’m older.
But it has so many other definitions that I reject. We put a judgment on the term. Old is bad; old is feeble; old is demented; old is helpless; old is pathetic. Keep going. There’s almost no end to the number of negatives we put on the word. But old is good. Old, I remind you, means I didn’t die. That’s a good thing in my book. Isn’t it interesting that we compliment people by saying they’re “wise beyond their years.”
In the spirit of being politically correct, maybe I should refer to myself as an “Older-American.” Or maybe an “Older-Not-feeble-not-demented-not-helpless-not-pathetic-wise-beyond-my-years-American. That’s 13 hyphens if you’re counting.