The April 7, 2010 Associated Press (AP) headline, “Obama Bans Islam, Jihad From National Security Strategy Document” causes critical thinkers to ask many questions. Firstly, is this an example of political correctness gone too far?
According to the AP article, “President Barack Obama’s advisers will remove religious terms such as ‘Islamic extremism’ from the central document outlining the U.S. national security strategy and will use the rewritten document to emphasize that the United States does not view Muslim nations through the lens of terror, counterterrorism officials said.”
Words matter. We change the way we speak to indicate a change in the way we think. It works the other way too. Words influence our views. It comes down to a difference between denotation and connotation. A word’s dictionary definition is its denotation. The feeling or image a word evokes is its connotation. The spirit behind political correctness is an admirable one because of this.
But the era of political correctness has held us back in some ways because it seems to justify an absence of critical thought. Americans are at war, but is it the War on Terror as President George W. Bush called it? President Obama refuses to call it that.
The events of recent months prove we are still very much threatened. Our enemy seems to be hard to define, however. Just consider the attack at Fort Hood as well as those arrested in Denver, Detroit, New York and Pakistan in connection with potential threats to American’s safety this winter. There are threats, but who or what is the enemy? These threats come from extremists who have declared jihad against the United States. Why is it politically incorrect to call them Islamic extremists? What unifies these terrorists if not their religious fanaticism? Can you be tolerant of religious differences while still distinguishing when one group hides behind a religion to push forward a criminal agenda?
Or is the argument one against profiling? Americans aren’t condemning an entire faith or race. We must embrace Muslim nations while still being mindful of those extremists intent on attacking our nation. Most believe racial profiling is wrong in that it is discriminatory. This can be true as profiling has often been a tool misused by law enforcement. Shouldn’t we concentrate on how to use the law enforcement tool properly and effectively?
Obama wants to distinguish his National Security Strategy from Bush and Obama’s administration seems to find fault with the word terrorist. In some ways this makes sense since one country’s terrorist is another country’s freedom fighter. The phrasing frames the reaction. We cheer the freedom fighter and attack the terrorist. Therefore, I can understand why anyone involved in a cause would like to have freedom in the title. But Americans are left wondering what to call our enemies.
The Bush Doctrine stated, “The struggle against militant Islamic radicalism is the great ideological conflict of the early years of the 21st century.” Is this no longer true?
Will this debate over language be so distracting that it will cause us to be more vulnerable to our enemies?
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