CAWTHON'S CATHARSIS - I Learn Political Correctness, or Else, from an Expert

(04/16/2002)

By Jack Cawthon

I found the office beside that of the Provost in Charge of the Recruitment of Basketball Coaches. The sign above the door read “Assistant Vice-President-Safe Speak and Political Correctness.” When I entered an outer office I was greeted by a tall athletic young man with blond hair and blue eyes, the perfect Aryan I surmised. I told him I was there to speak with the man in charge.

A flash of fear showed in his eyes as he put his fingers to his lips and whispered, “Never, never say ‘man’ in this office. You wish to see Ms.,” and he hissed the word “mizzz” much like a bee sounds trapped in a beer mug, “Buncraft.” And with that he ushered me into an inner office and hastily retreated.

Sitting behind a huge desk with barely her full face in view I saw the obvious Mizzz Buncraft. I had hardly stated my name and had begun to spell it as is habit, when she bounded from behind the desk and confronted me, rising to her full height of at least five feet, one inch, counting the three-inch spike heels she was wearing.

“So, you’re that writer who thinks it cute to refer to the Little Woman,” and she eyed me with dark unblinking eyes much like those of a blacksnake I had once observed coiled and ready to strike at an unsuspecting sparrow.

I sputtered that, yes, I did do some writing but that I not only admired little women but that I had one of my own at home, along with a small foreign car, two less than large dogs and a cat that hadn’t grown much from a kitten. I started to explain that miniaturization had always fascinated me, the microchip in particular, but I didn’t get far along when her face took on a look of rage that brought to mind memories of a friend, a giant of a man, who had been attacked in a bar brawl by a little person wearing spike heels. After a few weeks in the hospital he emerged somewhat bowed and castigated and dedicated his life to singing soprano in the church choir-rather well at that.

By that time the rumored last words of George Armstrong Custer were ringing in my ears: “Uh oh, I may be in trouble.”

But a good offensive is sometimes better than a defensive, as I believe Richard Nixon said when he denied ever hearing of Watergate, so I blurted right out with it: “How are you handling the Indian controversy?” You would have thought I had said the Mid-East crisis from the look on her face. She fairly screamed, “Never, never, ever say that word again in my presence!” “Say what?” I asked dumbly.

“How! We do not use that stereotype as portrayed by Hollywood of the speech pattern of the Native American. And don’t call them Indians!” she fairly, or unfairly in my opinion, screamed at me. “We must be conscious of the treatment of ethnic groups. Just because some drunken, lost, confused Italian labeled them such we do not have to perpetuate his dumbness as a navigator.”

“Ugh!” I mumbled, searching for words but coming up short, if I might be pardoned the expression. I could almost feel the pain of a spike heel striking a tender spot far from my brain, and I thought she might hyperventilate. “Are you mocking me and a noble people?” Suddenly a sense of guilt spread over me as I realized that I might be a bigot and racist. And I hoped it had nothing to do with my great-great-great grandpap who had crossed the Blue Ridge to a tract of land awarded him by Lord Fairfax and which he had paid a roving band of Cherokees two mirrors and a bolt of red cloth for their claim only to have a Shawnee delegation declare a cloud on the title and in turn take a lock of hair for their settlement. But they only did what a good lawyer would do in later times, I concluded.

By this time my mind had digressed as I had almost forgotten the reason for my visit, although I felt it might have been wiser to have emailed. I tried to explain that I wrote for the HUR, and I spelled the word not wanting her to think that I was belittling hers in general, Herald and that Bob Weaver had tried to obtain some information through the Freedom of Information Act but had received nothing.

For the first time a smirk replaced the look of potential violence on her face. “Weaver has it all wrong. He doesn’t have freedom to RECEIVE information. We have freedom to WITHOLD whatever we wish.” She seemed delighted to explain that that the law had been written much in the fashion of the Sunday hunting legislation and that her legal advisers had found an “is” that wasn’t properly defined casting a new interpretation on the issue. “You want information you gotta vote for it,” she chirped and for the first time a smile crossed her face.

I was about to tell her that a smile made her look really, really sexy but for some reason thought better of it.

“You see, Mr. Crawford”-I wasn’t about to correct her as she might not find out where I lived in her error-“it’s people like you who need to change your old-fashioned racist, sexist thinking and understand that words can heal, prevent wars and cure most diseases if used with consideration.” I almost added “and become meaningless,” but decided to quit while I was still behind.

I could tell our interview was over as she called out, “Honey Bun, show Mr. Crawford out.” As her handsome assistant escorted me to the door she gave him a slap on the rump and said in a low voice, “See you after work, Babe, and wear those tight-fitting jeans.”

I hurried home to the Little Wo---height-challenged feminine person, I corrected as I had been taught by an expert, who from now on would be walking tall even in her stocking feet which I much prefer over spike heels.


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