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By Barbara McDowall

Why are we so fearful of rocking the boat to the point we do not stand up for what we know to be right and to say what needs to be said?  And why are we so quick to judge the life journey of another to the point of stripping away that individual's reputation and body of work contributed over many years?

An article in the Toronto Star by Ben Rayner (Another artist drops the N-bomb) caught my eye recently and reminded me of the pervasive nature of political correctness throughout society.

In his article, Rayner reveals the recent 'coming out' of world-renowned author, Gunther Grass.  He had been a member of Adolf Hitler's Waffen SS during WW II.  This revelation was met with much disdain with some calling his reputation and his bibliography into question.

More and more frequently, I see and hear the underlying layer of political correctness that is slipping silently like a thief in the night into our everyday life

Earlier this summer, Margaret Somerville was awarded an honourary degree by the University of Ryerson (Toronto) earlier this year.  She is a well respected ethicist who holds professorships in both the Faculties of Law and Medicine at the McGill University in Montreal and “is active in the worldwide development of bioethics and in the study of the wider legal and ethical aspects of medicine and science and also widely published. 

However, Ms. Sommerville doesn't support same sex marriage and submitted affidavits to that effect in the same sex marriage case here in Canada.  Many in the lesbian and gay community are still very angry with her position.  The announcement of the awarding of this honourary degree was quickly met with a wave of criticism.  In the days leading up to her acceptance, demonstrations by the lesbian and gay community took place demanding Ryerson strip Ms. Somerville of the degree.  To add insult to injury, the university suggested they wouldn't have awarded her a degree had they known of her position.

As a participant in that case, I was disappointed in this response.  I do not agree with her opinion and yet I respect her right to express it.  She is clear in what she believes.  How many of us are as clear?  Why can't we recognize and celebrate the great body of work for which she is well qualified to receive the degree? 

All of this has left me wondering where is the 'wiggle' room to agree to disagree.  And in Gunther Grass' case, where is the room to learn and grow as we experience life.  Where is the room to recognize our common humanity and to celebrate where he is now, not where he once was?  How is that we are able to grant that right to a small child as he/she learns to walk?  We can be wonderfully loving and encouraging with every fall and we can have endless amounts of patience as we repeatedly help them back on their feet and encourage them to try again.

How can we grow as long as we unconsciously seek out those who only share our thoughts and ideas?

It is essential we create intentional safe space where the rules of the road allow for so called stupid questions and a certain amount of 'political incorrectness' to occur.  We need to be able to get the difficult stuff on the table, deal with it, learn from it and move into a new understanding.

As in the case of Grass and Sommerville, there is a wonderful opportunity to connect with our own humanity and compassion, to recognize we, too, may have had (and continue to have) opinions not shared by the mainstream; that we, too, at any given time in our own lives have been party to something we no longer support. 

If we are incapable of forgiving ourselves for the 'baby steps' we take in life, how can we then forgive others for the things we see in others that remind us of ourselves?

There must be room in our lives for growth in ourselves and in others as well - opinions are simply that and carry no more power than we are willing to assign to them.  We have nothing to lose by allowing those opinions to exist; knowing they most likely will change over time.  Nothing remains static.

If we truly believe in the celebration of diversity, we must be willing to 'be' in those places that offer us the greatest opportunity to learn and grow.  Those places will challenge us to see with new eyes, hear with new ears and to respond from our newly expanded hearts.

Authentic Living