That speech has more than 2 million YouTube hits, and his latest book, “America the Beautiful: Rediscovering What Made This Nation Great” is at No. 8 on the Amazon charts.
But one of his main talking points strikes me as contradictory. In a couple of recent appearances, his crusade against the anti-politically correct police continued. His point: In a country that prides itself on freedom of expression, why should people feel that they can’t say certain things?
I’ll explain why. Because for too long in this country, too many American citizens, whether they be racial or religious minorities or women, were left voiceless by law or by practice. The so-called PC police have developed out of a society in which large groups had to find some way to defend themselves against the prejudiced practices of what people like to conveniently refer to as “American values.”
Instead of thinking of it as someone else telling you, “You can’t say that,” think of it as someone saying, “In a perfect world in which my words were taken as seriously as yours, you could say that and I’d reply as candidly. Alas, I can’t do that within this racial/ethnic/financial power structure, so please grant me the kindness of just being quiet.”
It's a modest compromise in a system that was created on an inherently unfair playing field.
“What I would like to do is getting people to start talking to each other. To put ideals on the table,” Carson said in an interview Monday with Tom Ashbrook on NPR’s show, “On Point.” “Not say, ‘Oh, we can’t talk about your ideal. Nope, that’s politically incorrect.’ . . . I am unaffiliated politically with Republicans or Democrats. I'm an independent. But the fact of the matter is, this is a societal problem that we have bought in to. And it really is quite silly for a nation that has a major foundational pillar as freedom of speech and freedom of expression.”
If one is truly concerned about free speech and beyond that, an honest exchange of ideas, you’d be willing to listen to someone tell you why you’re wrong. To me, the societal problem is in that entire generation of certain people feel entitled to say whatever they want while others legitimately fear the consequences of their words.
In all honesty, I’m a huge fan of Carson. My dad gave me his book “Gifted Hands: Then Ben Carson Story” as a boy, and when I read it, I had a hard time believing it wasn’t fiction. The story seemed so far-fetched that my 11-year-old brain thought Carson was more of a superhero than a surgeon. I still do, frankly.
And as a politician, I think some of his policy ideas hold quite a bit of merit. A tax system based on the concept of tithing is not ridiculous to me, and his views on changing the health-care system hold obvious weight.
He’d also probably be very popular. The older black conservative community that lives strong in churches across America would likely adore his worldview. And I wouldn’t blame anyone. The guy’s a brain surgeon for goodness’ sake.
And to describe how that affects his outlook, he told an interesting anecdote on Ashbrook’s radio show. “When I take somebody to the operating room, and I cut the scalp and peel it back and take off the bone flap, and open the dura, I’m actually operating on the thing that makes that person who they are. The cover doesn’t make them who they are,” Carson said.
“And those of us who are extraordinarily superficial in our thinking, we spend way too much time thinking about the cover and way too little time thinking about the content.”
Oddly, that is exactly what the PC police are trying to say.
To be clear, Carson has said he’s not interested in the Oval Office. “I have no desire to get into that whole arena because I do not believe in political correctness. I certainly don’t believe in getting into a cesspool of special-interest groups,” Carson told Ashbrook. “I wouldn’t do it.
“That’s why I say the only way something like that’s going to happen is going to take a force greater than myself.”
But he could do it. And I believe he’d be a great candidate for America, if only he’d realize that who we are as people exists both on the outside and the inside of our bodies — and not because all of us chose for it to be that way.
Yates is a columnist for The Root DC.
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