About a month ago, Esquire published an interview with Clint Eastwood that made monitor and phone sales skyrocket from the mass device punching that erupted from readers. In it, Clint (who was born in 1930) called this generation a bunch of pussies. He insinuated that we're too quick to call out racism, saying, "When I grew up, those things weren't called racist." I probably don't have to point out that when Clint grew up, you could go to jail or be outright fucking lynched for drinking out of the wrong water fountain or marrying outside of your race. Back then, dropping N-bombs or making fried chicken jokes wasn't even a blip on the douchebag radar.
Samaro via iStock
Actually, "Douchebag Radar" would be a great name for Clint's band.
Or maybe I do need to point it out, because as stupid as Clint Eastwood sounds in that ridiculous rage orgy of words he vomited, we're going to do the same thing when we're his age. What's really frightening is that, just like him, we'll have no idea that what we're saying is even remotely wrong or offensive. We will feel like the only logical person in a world of overly sensitive nutsacks. We'll look at the inheriting generation as a bunch of drama queens who just don't get it and take political correctness way too far. It is inevitable.
It's all about evolution. I'm not talking about in the physical sense -- you may not notice it very often, but there is a constant societal and moral evolution in play every second of your life. It happens so gradually it's hard to spot, but if you take a step back and open up a history book, it slaps you in the face like a friend's drunken mushroom stamp. We're perpetually working ourselves into a sort of social neutrality, in which it will one day be considered insane to judge or make fun of any person for any reason. And that's not just some stoner idea I came up with while huffing oven cleaner. We see the same ideas repeatedly demonstrated with every generation. It happens like this:
The current generation fights for the rights of an oppressed group. There's a collision of support and opposition until the people in public office are finally forced to step up and say, "OK, we give in. This is bad. Here's a new law that guarantees the rights of those people." That happened not long ago with the issue of gay marriage. Ten years ago, "gay marriage" was a punchline on lazy sitcoms. Ten years before that, being gay at all was the joke. Seriously, rewatch Friends from scratch and count how many gay jokes they make, and try not to punch your own brain completely out of your skull.
When Clint Eastwood was in his 20s, the country was fighting to desegregate schools. His mother was 11 when women got the right to vote. His grandparents were alive when slavery was abolished. Every generation had a new fight, and every time, the older generation thought it was bullshit. They thought that about our fight for equal marriage rights, and at no point did they think they were on the wrong side of that debate. I'm not saying they were evil. I'm saying they were ignorant.
RuslanGuzov via iStock
What have you done? You've damned us all.
That's because, by relative comparison, new injustices don't look nearly as bad as the old ones. Not to the generation who's been in those battles. Let's go back to slavery for a minute. We look back on that as an absolute atrocity. It was flat-out evil, right? But at the time, that wasn't how much of the country saw it. On one side, you had a growing group of people who were in support of ending it forever. On the other side were people who genuinely thought that abolition was an insane idea. "This will ruin the country! We'll see total financial collapse if we have to hire workers to replace slaves! Bringing them to this country was a gift -- we gave them food, clothing, shelter, jobs, saved their souls by introducing them to Jesus ... and they're just going to spit in our faces and demand more?! Fuck you!"
Skip ahead. Slavery is gone. People are trying to integrate into society and are finding locked doors everywhere they go. For the next hundred years, there is a brutal fight for equality that we're still feeling today. The slave-owning generation started filling up graves, and the same group of people who fought to free the slaves now think that asking for equality is just a bunch of pansy horseshit. That's not speculation. Here's what Abraham Goddamn Lincoln said about it:
I will say then that I am not, nor ever have been, in favor of bringing about in any way the social and political equality of the black and white races -- that I am not nor ever have been in favor of making VOTERS or jurors of negroes, NOR OF QUALIFYING THEM HOLD OFFICE, nor to intermarry with white people; and I will say in addition to this that there is a physical difference between the white and black races which I believe will forever forbid the two races living together on terms of social and political equality. And inasmuch as they cannot so live, while they do remain together there must be the position of superior and inferior, and I as much as any of her man am in favor of having the superior position assigned to the white race.
mathieukor via iStock
"You heard what I said."
Trust me, you'll do it, too. Just with a different group of people. And you won't recognize it while you're doing it. A significant portion of the readership has already done it with gay marriage. How many times have you heard the phrase, "What's next? They let us marry our pets?!" None of those people thought they were on the "bad guy" side, but history will show that they were. Those people are our generation's equivalent of, "Wait, now you want the right to vote?"
But, make no mistake, this isn't where it ends. We are only a generation or two away from looking back on this whole debate with embarrassment. Not just with gay marriage but with equal pay, equal opportunity, equal education of all races and genders ... some of us do that now, but our children and grandchildren will as a standard. They'll see old news broadcasts and articles in history class, debating whether or not giving gays the right to marry would morally destroy the country. They'll look back at politicians running entire campaigns on the promise of blocking those equal rights laws, and they'll think, "Can you believe people used to actually spout this horseshit? Let alone get massive support in public office by pandering to those hateful assholes?"
It sounds like a fairy tale. Like a protest song from the '60s: We're all going to live in peace and love and harmony, and everybody will be colorblind. But that's exactly where social evolution is taking us. Not in any of our lifetimes, but it's coming. Duck!
Right now, we're in a transitional period. We've made huge strides toward alleviating the oppression of the LGBT community, but we're not done by a longshot. Just like we're not done with racial and gender inequality. But every time we take that fight to another level, we take another step toward that social neutrality. We make it less and less socially acceptable to attack, judge, harass, or make fun of someone because of their physical or mental traits.
JohanJK via iStock
Even this person.
Even today, a significant portion of the group who sided on the issue of legalizing gay marriage look at the current debate about bathrooms and roll their eyes. "Oh, come the fuck on. This is too far. Now you're all getting too politically correct. You got the right to marry, and now you want to use the same bathroom as a woman, just because you decided you like wearing dresses? This is just stupid. If you have a cock, you're a dude. If you have a vagina, you're a woman. Get over it!"
A significant portion of both sides still think this is about where a person prefers to shit, instead of a bigger statement about how gender is quickly becoming an obsolete idea. It's not all ones and zeroes. It'll likely be a while before we get past that line of thinking. Again, each time we pass another law or change our social stance on those issues, we take another step toward that neutrality. In a thousand years, the very idea of "male" and "female" could seem surreal -- no more of an identity marker than "tall" or "dark sense of humor" or "bad taste in country jazz fusion music."
And when we get past these issues that are right up in our faces, another one will jump out of the shadows and take its place, because as it turns out, we have no shortage of excuses to judge and oppress. Overweight people are punchlines on sitcoms. Autism is treated like a character flaw. Hell, I used to use the word "retarded" on a regular basis, right here in my old articles. People were messaging me weekly trying to explain why that was offensive, and it pissed me off. How dare they call me wrong? I clearly wasn't making fun of actual people with mental disabilities ... I was just calling someone "retarded." Right?
ImagineGolf via iStock
"WHY?! Why did you have to take that word from me?!"
About the time I decided to give up that word (after a three-year-long set of arguments) was when I realized that this was one of the major reasons older generations rebel against more evolved social steps. They don't recognize that level of oppression, because they believe their fight fixed the problem. "You wanted the right to get married. There you go. Now we're equal. Holy shit, you want more? You don't want to be equal; you want to be superior!"
When the younger generation calls attention to problems that still exist, the older generation feels like we're attacking them personally. "You're still wrong, old man! Your worldview is evil!" Clint lived through a time when the country was swarmed with protests against racial inequality. He saw new laws get passed because of them. He saw Affirmative Action put into place. He saw more and more opportunities open up for minorities. The idea that "subtle racism" could exist at all (or as I like to call it: "racism") is completely foreign to him. Telling him otherwise would be no different than slapping him in his stupid asshole face. He won't understand why you did it, and his reaction would be to either hit back or run away.
It's evolution. And evolution takes a really long time. At some point, our species will look back on all of our actions right now and cringe. Even the ones we think are no big deal. They might read my use of "overweight" in this article and think, "What a fucking monster! I can't believe people use to throw around that term with no shame or remorse." But until we reach that point, we'll keep going through this same cycle. I will eventually see a legitimately noble issue on the news that makes me think, "OK, this is just too stupid. This generation is way too politically correct." We all will. I just hope I'm not famous when it happens to me, because I don't want to be the next Clint Eastwood.
John is an editor and columnist here on Cracked. You can follow him on Twitter.
Get more insights into political correctness in 6 Ways Critics Of Political Correctness Have It Backwards and 6 Spectacularly Failed Attempts To Be Politically Correct.
Also follow us on Facebook, because sometimes flaming us in the comments section just isn't enough!