Consider the gypsy moth.
This humble creature flits about, doing moth things, living its moth life, and dreaming its moth dreams.
And even though it never wanted to be another flash point in this nation’s endless culture wars, the gypsy moth is now a catalyst for political arguments, proving that there is nothing—and I mean nothing—that Americans will not fight about.
You see, the Entomological Society of America (ESA), the largest organization of insect experts in the world, recently said that it is changing the name of the gypsy moth because the term is “inappropriate and offensive.”
As you know, gypsy is a slur for the Romani people, or Roma. They are Europe’s largest ethnic minority and face discrimination. And it shouldn’t surprise anyone that they don’t particularly like being associated with a destructive, ugly bug via a pejorative term. So the ESA is changing the name to be more “respectful, inclusive, and descriptive.”
That all sounds fine and good. However, a spin through social media will reveal that the name change has provoked accusations of political correctness and loony liberals going crazy yet again. In a strangely hypocritical exchange, some commentators insist that getting outraged over a moth means that people are hypersensitive—ignoring the fact that they are online at that very moment, getting outraged over a moth.
Of course, it’s not about the bug. Well, maybe it is to a handful of right-wing entomologists, but we can safely say that the vast majority of people furious about this obscure development can’t tell the difference between a lymantria dispar and an aphaenogaster araneoides.
I know—what a bunch of morons, right?
In any case, over the past few years, the offensive names of buildings, fish, forests, sports mascots, and numerous other entities have all been changed. And every time this occurs, conservatives freak out about liberals becoming the thought police and “canceling” shit and turning the populace into frail, delicate flowers.
So is this true?
Has the incessant whining of progressives caused Americans to become wimps, afraid of controversy? Has it made our citizens meek, terrified to reveal their sincere thoughts?
We are louder than ever, more confrontational than ever, more aggressive than ever. The idea that liberals are creating a nation of wimps is undermined by our soaring homicide rate, our high level of violence compared to other industrialized nations, and the ubiquitous videos of senseless confrontations that clog our social media feeds. For a country where everyone is oversensitive and afraid to speak freely, we seem to endure an incredible amount of yelling.
The idea that being nice to someone will inevitably lead to spineless cowardice is ingrained in the conservative mind. These are people, after all, who revel in cruelty and believe winning doesn’t count unless you humiliate your opponent.
It is yet another way in which progressives and conservatives view the world differently, and further proof that meeting in the middle—whatever that means—is a futile endeavor.
In essence, conservatives believe that liberal values make America too soft, while liberals believe that conservative values make America too harsh.
For progressives, it is difficult to compromise with someone who believes that compassion is for suckers, and that showing respect for other cultures is weakness.
For conservatives, it is difficult to compromise… well, it’s just difficult to compromise, that’s most of it. But if they are going to listen to someone, it’s certainly not going to be some woke crybaby whose fragile sensibilities threaten to turn America into one big cream puff.
And these differing mindsets are not just theoretical. There are real-world ramifications.
At their worst, progressives will turn insufferable, annoy everyone, and force society to dance around their preferences.
At their worst, conservatives will take away your right to vote, storm the capitol, and maybe shoot you.
So yeah, I’m beginning to think that political correctness is not the problem.
But let’s get back to our friend the gypsy moth. Please note that this pest is well known for being “an invasive species that wreaks havoc on forests.” It consumes nonstop, leaving devastation in its path and forcing people to clean up its mess.
So maybe we should call it the Baby Boomer Republican moth.
But no, that would be offensive.
Featured image: “Gypsy Moth. Lymantria dispar..Male(plumed antennae)” by gailhampshire is licensed under CC BY 2.0