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Letters: Afraid to offend others with words

German Chancellor Angela Merkel was named Time magazine's

German Chancellor Angela Merkel was named Time magazine's "Person of the Year" for 2015. Credit: Getty Images / Sean Gallup


Thank you for Cathy Young’s excellent column [“2015: Year of political correctness,” Opinion, Dec. 29]. It feels dangerous these days for me to speak at all: If I wonder whether women in the military should serve in combat roles, I‘m a “sexist.” If I don’t say “undocumented alien,” instead of “illegal immigrant,” I’m a “xenophobe.”

If I think German Chancellor Angela Merkel deserved to be named “Woman of the Year” more than Caitlyn Jenner, I’m a “transphobe.” If I try to teach my grandkids a lesson in tolerance by saying, “Don’t judge the Indian until you’ve walked in his moccasins,” I’m a “racial micro-aggressor.”

I’m planning to build a safe zone for all my fellow sufferers. How does that work? Is it kind of like an eruv? Do I need a variance? Help!

Richard Epstein, West Babylon


Columnist Cathy Young’s opinion piece wades into the complex territory of reconciling freedom of thought with the responsible exercise of that right.

Government is appropriately restrained in its ability to restrict expression. But that doesn’t mean our community can’t foster a climate in which language is used to communicate respect for the dignity of others.

We run programs, such as “The Power of Symbols and Words,” in partnership with the Suffolk County Human Rights Commission and the Suffolk County Anti-Bias Task Force. The programs are intended to raise awareness among middle- and high-school youth of the impact that symbols and words can have, and to guide them to avoid marginalizing others through language.

Steven Schrier, Selden

Editor’s note: The writer is executive director of the Suffolk Center on the Holocaust, Diversity & Human Understanding.