I was recently reminded of the classic Washington Irving story, Rip Van Winkle. Rip, as you may recall, spent his days loafing and tippling in the taverns near his village in the Hudson Valley. One day, July 3, 1766, Rip climbed high into the mountains to escape his belligerent wife. As the day wore on, he became so inebriated that he fell into a deep sleep. The unfortunate man slept for twenty years finally awakening on July 5, 1786. As Rip slowly made his way home, he was baffled by the changes he saw around him. He had slept through the Revolutionary War! He had fallen asleep in a British colony and awakened in the United States of America.
What if a contemporary Rip Van Winkle had fallen asleep in 1953 and not awakened until 2003? At first, he would be bewildered by the alterations to the infrastructure and the technological advances that had occurred during the last half century. But as he became aware of changes in mores; speech, behavior and the entertainment field — popular songs, movies and TV programs — he would probably be astounded.
Can you imagine his reaction to the vast increase in the size of government and its intrusions into the daily lives of citizens? Would he be able to comprehend quotas; set-asides, and other racial preferences? Would he believe that employees were actually being forced to attend “sensitivity training” classes? Most likely, when he finally realized how seriously our society has been vitiated by political correctness, the poor man might literally become unhinged. I suspect he would wonder why Americans allowed this counterproductive social experiment to progress so far without stopping it. Especially after the lessons learned from other social experiments such as Radical Reconstruction and Prohibition. He might even suppose that, like himself, a large segment of society had also been asleep for the past 50 years.
And, in essence, his reasoning wouldn’t be entirely wrong. In fact, Rip Van Winkle might be the perfect metaphor for America during the last half of the twentieth century. Posterity might even refer back to this generation as The Rip Van Winkle Generation; the masses slept while militant elitists and grievance groups eviscerated their culture.
The detrimental effects of political correctness are evident in all aspects of American society today. Almost every day we learn of a newer and more ridiculous assault on our traditions and values. Although all PC “cultural cleansing” angers me, I’m especially outraged by the ongoing campaign to eradicate Southern heritage. You are familiar with the attacks on Southern heritage, so I won’t catalog them for you. However, I want to make note of some recent ones to indicate how ludicrous they have become.
The annual conferences of the 4th Judicial Circuit (judges and lawyers from Virginia, West Virginia, North Carolina and South Carolina) always includes an “Old Fashioned Sing-Along.” Traditional songs such as “Home on the Range,” “Yankee Doodle Dandy,” “Dixie,” and others are in the repertoire. At this year’s conference, the song “Dixie” was permanently eliminated from the list based on the request of some members.
The Radisson hotel in James City, VA, capitulated to complaints from some conference attendees and covered up its wall murals of Civil War battle scenes for the duration of the conference. These attendees claimed to be offended because some of the paintings depicted soldiers carrying the Confederate flag.
Vice-President Dick Cheney refused to attend the funeral of South Carolina’s long-time Congressman Floyd Spence unless the family agreed that the Confederate flag would not displayed and that “Dixie” would not be sung. To Mr. Cheney, avoiding possible political repercussions took precedence over paying homage to the dead.
Finally, the latest asininity in cultural cleansing comes from the University of Mississippi. School officials have decided that “Colonel Reb,” the old Southern gentleman who served for years as the Ole Miss Rebels’ sports mascot, is no longer politically correct. The University’s associate vice chancellor for communications said of Colonel Reb: “Logos and images like that get old, outdated and stale.”
But, of course, “outdated and stale” is not the problem. Uncle Sam is not considered “outdated and stale” nor are the images Washington and Jefferson that appear on our paper currency and coins. The problem, as everyone knows, is that some politically correct bureaucrats decided that Colonel Reb had to go because his “Southern plantation-look” might be perceived as being racially insensitive. Idiotically, the Athletic Director attempted to disguise the school’s true motive with the disingenuous claim that Colonel Reb was just “an old man with a cane” and “didn’t look athletic.”
The emasculated Ole Miss administrators have already forbidden the singing of “Dixie” as well as the display of the “Confederate flag” at athletic or other university functions. Incredibly, their actions were based on a study of school symbols conducted by a New York firm in 1997. Now another New York firm has been hired, at a cost of $30,000, to study Colonel Reb and other school logos. The gullibility of the Ole Miss officers probably has the owners of these New York firms laughing all the way to the bank.