Last week a sad example of being politically correct and humanly incorrect occurred. A human being acknowledged the humanity of a fellow human being, but within 24 hours that human being felt the need to issue a public apology for acknowledging the humanity of that same fellow human being! If being politically correct means one cannot acknowledge the humanity of their opponents, how can America ever create Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s Beloved Community of racial and political harmony?
Last Thursday at the University of Nebraska-Omaha’s Chuck Hagel Forum in Global Leadership, former Vice President Joe Biden discussed topics on both domestic and foreign policy. They ranged from civic engagement and the recent North Korea summit to long-term prospects for America’s partnership with NATO and European countries. While citing an example of how President Donald Trump’s foreign policy is regarded by world leaders, Biden used a word to acknowledge the humanity of Vice President Mike Pence that drew criticism from the political left.
The complete quote was “The fact of the matter is, it was followed on by a guy who’s a decent guy, our vice president, who stood before this group of allies and leaders and said, ‘I’m here on behalf of President Trump,’ and there was dead silence. Dead silence.” The part that drew criticism and raised the question of political correctness was Biden acknowledging Vice President Pence’s humanity by referring to him as a “decent guy”.
Actress Cynthia Nixon, who married a wife in 2012 and is the mother of a transgender child, took to Twitter to express her frustration by tweeting: @JoeBiden you’ve just called America’s most anti-LGBT elected leader ‘a decent guy.’ Please consider how this falls on the ears of our community.
Fearing he no longer was being politically correct Biden responded within an hour trying to negate his humanity acknowledgment by tweeting: “You’re right, Cynthia. I was making a point in a foreign policy context, that under normal circumstances a Vice President wouldn’t be given a silent reaction on the world stage. But there is nothing decent about being anti-LGBTQ rights, and that includes the Vice President.”
As a member of the LGBT community Nixon is justified in her dissatisfaction with Pence, as a member of Congress he supported a constitutional amendment that would have defined marriage as between a man and a woman. Citing a Harvard researcher, Pence said in his speech supporting the amendment, “societal collapse was always brought about following an advent of the deterioration of marriage and family.” Pence also called being gay a choice and said keeping gays from marrying was not discrimination, but enforcement of “God’s idea.”
In 2007 he successfully urged his colleagues in the House to vote down the Employment Non-Discrimination Act which would have banned discrimination against people based on sexual orientation. After the defeat of the bill, he claimed that the law “wages war on freedom and religion in the workplace.“ And as Governor of Indiana Pence spoke out against the former Obama administration’s directive relating to transgender students. It advised public schools to allow transgender students to use the bathroom that best corresponds with their gender identity or risk losing federal funding.
Pence’s words and deeds are reminiscent of the 1960’s southern segregationist politicians who were being politically correct but humanly incorrect, when they said allowing blacks and whites to work together, live together, play together, worship together, eat together or marry each other would be the complete breakdown of human society.
Nixon’s response to Biden doing the politically correct thing by taking back his acknowledgment of Pence’s humanity after her criticism, and Biden’s politically correct act itself both reflect the barrier to creating Dr. King’s beloved community. Her response to Biden was: Thanks @JoeBiden. Appreciate the response. But please understand from where we sit, his dehumanizing of our community disqualifies @MikePence for the honorific of ‘decent’, regardless of the context.
Unfortunately, Nixon’s response and Biden’s politically correct act, are not reminiscent of the Civil Rights Movement’s response to those segregationist politicians. In his 1963 sermon, Loving Your Enemies, Dr. King addressed the role of unconditional love for the segregationist of his day and the Pence’s of our day. According to him: “With every ounce of our energy, we must continue to rid this nation of the incubus of segregation. But we shall not in the process relinquish our privilege and our obligation to love. While abhorring segregation, we shall love the segregationist. This is the only way to create the beloved community.”
Biden’s politically correct act of rescinding his acknowledgment of Vice President Pence’s humanity, and Nixon’s reaction to both Biden’s initial humanity acknowledgment and his politically correct act to rescind it, are violent responses to the initial violence of Vice President Pence. Putting aside Dr. King’s prophetic words “Returning hate for hate multiplies hate, adding deeper darkness to a night already devoid of stars”, more importantly, Nixon and Biden are preventing the possibility of ever resolving the violence. If one’s humanity can’t be acknowledged then how can dialogue with that one to resolve the violence take place? Who would engage in open-minded dialogue with someone who does not acknowledge their humanity?
In other words, how do I sit down with a person or with people to negotiate, compromise, or convert them to my perspective if they don’t feel that I accept the principle that although we have opposite perspectives, I still acknowledge the DECENT humanity within them? That I accept that they are not from Mars even though we disagree. That’s why Step 4, Discussion/Negotiation, of Dr. King’s 6 Steps To Non-Violent Social Change says: Look for what is positive in every action and statement the opposition makes. Do not seek to humiliate the opponent but to call forth the good in the opponent.
To Joe Biden’s credit, his initial non-political gut was to look for the good in Pence, in hopes of finding commonality which Biden intuitively knows can lead one day to Pence’s conversion. Cynthia Nixon’s reaction to Biden’s gut reaction caused Biden to take the politically correct but humanly incorrect misstep of returning violence to Vice President Pence’s violence. By Biden rescinding his initial declaration that Pence was a “decent guy” now implied that Biden thought that Pence was not a decent guy! In other words, converting lemonade back to lemons!
Democrats and Republicans will never come together to legislate the good life for all Americans if they can’t see the HUMANITY in each other!!! Vice President Mike Pence is a decent guy, actress and 2018 Democratic New York gubernatorial candidate Cynthia Nixon is a decent woman, and former Vice President Joe Biden is a decent guy as well. There is decency all around, now the trick is for Democrats and Republicans to acknowledge that decency and the humanity within each other while finding commonality. The commonality that could lead to repairing Obamacare, boosting the economy with a massive infrastructure repair bill, background checks for all gun purchases, and reducing both the budget deficit and national debt by making adjustments to the 2018 tax-cut legislation.
Democrats and the politically correct left should never let opposing views blind them to the humanity within those they disagree with, or feel like acknowledging the humanity of their adversaries is an insult to their own opposing views. In the words of another King, Rodney King, CAN WE ALL JUST GET ALONG?