The endless changes demanded by the politically correct in language are also occasions for conflict. In my lifetime "Negro" has been changed to "black," and now one uses the term "African American" or is recognized as racist or provocative. "Oriental" has been changed to "Asian." Young girls are women.
What is most perplexing about the petty moral reforms of the politically correct is that there is no way to anticipate what they will fall on next. Their values have often been recognized as secular and liberal. Of late, however, they have shown a surprising sensitivity to claims made by Muslims, claims that are all very much based on fundamentalist religion and politics that can only be characterized as reactionary -- and boy, can I hear the grumbling from the politically correct about my applying that term, "reactionary," to Islam. Yet there is nothing progressive about Islam, save perhaps its alienation from capitalism. Its religion is famously unreformed. Had you told me a decade ago that the claims of Islam would in 2006 strike a sympathetic note with the politically correct, I would have taken a large bet against you. Well, today you win.
So this anxious season is about over. But have you noticed this past week that we have not heard as many greetings of "Happy New Year" as we might have heard in the past? Why might that be? Well, the bullies have settled on "have a happy holiday" as the preferred greeting, and they will tell you that not everyone celebrates the New Year at this time. The Chinese have their own new year, as do the Muslims and the Jews. So it is a good bet that in the years to come "Happy New Year" will have gone the way of "Merry Christmas." Yet as 2006 expires, and 2007 stands in the threshold, allow me to wish you all happy New Year. It might be the last time I can do so politely.