By Chris Slater

I read the print, and then sat quietly at my desk wondering if anybody else was going to say anything. One of my jobs at the Gazette-Mail is to read articles and look for errors; poor grammar, chopping a 50-word sentence into two 25-worders, correcting factual errors, and so forth. Several of us were reading tomorrow’s front page, with its piece commemorating those lives lost during the Holocaust. One word caught my attention, and I was fixated on it:

Jew.

When I noticed that nobody else was bringing it up, I started consulting the AP Stylebook and searching Google for whether or not “Jew” is acceptable terminology (and it is). In today’s culture, you always want to make sure you’re being politically correct. In the course of my online searching, I came across a standup comedy routine from Louis C.K. where he talks about “Jew” being one of the few words that can both describe a group of people and then be used as a slur against them.

And, then I felt weird, because are we supposed to be listening to Louis C.K. anymore?

I guess the issue at debate these days is how politically correct is too politically correct? Was it wrong of me to worry over a word that in the newspaper context had only the best of intentions?

One of my favorite comic minds of all time is Norm Macdonald, and he hosted a YouTube video podcast that is now being converted into a Netflix production. On one of his shows, he had comedian Todd Glass as his guest. Glass had recently made news by coming out as a homosexual around the time he was 50. Norm and Todd had a discussion about terms that used to be socially acceptable, but with changing mindsets have now become simply wrong and offensive. Having a schizophrenic brother, Norm brought up how he doesn’t like the term “crazy” being used to define people who are difficult to work with.

Both being comedians, they talked about the Eddie Murphy comedy routines from the early 1980s, and how groundbreaking and on top of the world he was at the time. Now, nearly 40 years later, Murphy would be booed off stage if he started his bit about how it creeps him out when homosexuals smile at him (and Murphy uses the f-word slur to describe them).

The governor of West Virginia, Jim Justice, had his own word snafu recently. I crinkled my nose the first time I saw in print Justice using the words “Chinaman,” and apparently I wasn’t the only one who took umbrage. Justice issued a swift apology and basically gave a “Who woulda thunk it was bad?” response and a shrug of his shoulders.

People with common sense thought it was bad, Jim. If there is any racial implication, no matter how harmless you believe it to be, it shouldn’t be part of your vernacular. If your choice of word can deeply offend somebody who is suffering through some sort of pain or disorder, then you should not use it.

With that, here is a list of words that I see used blindly and with no regard for being politically incorrect. Let’s take these words out of the collective vocabulary.

Depressed … We all have days when we’re feeling a little down, but that doesn’t mean that there is a chemical imbalance in your head that causes you to live your life in a state of permanent sadness.

Bipolar … In 2008, there was a high-ranking student at Concord University’s Student Government Association. He was always well-mannered, polite, and a nice guy. One night he flipped out at a campus event and began yelling at another student official. When writing about it in that week’s issue of The Concordian, I called him out and said, “I don’t know if he’s bipolar, or what.” That wasn’t appropriate, for two reasons: 1) If he did have an actual disorder, then it’s not cool for me to make fun of him for it and 2) If he didn’t, then I shouldn’t have belittled those who do by stereotyping them as people who blow their stack in public.

OCD … Being meticulous when you clean is different than having obsessive compulsive disorder. There are people who cannot function properly due to the threat of germs or certain stimuli interfering with their routines. Making sure everybody uses a coaster does not make you OCD.

Alcoholic … Yeah, you drink every weekend, wake up hungover a few mornings, and your friend has several funny Snapchat stories featuring you. You just like to have some fun and unwind. Alcoholics ruin their lives and the lives of their family and loved ones through their actions.

Retarded … Messing up and doing something dumb is different than having a developmental disorder. The words are not interchangeable.

Gay … The was a big one that I took strides to break from in my early 20s. If something was lame, then it was gay. The only thing lame about being gay is knowing that people hate homosexuals just because of the way they live their lives.

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What are some other words that you hear thrown around that are actually insensitive and wrong? Let us know and maybe we can change the way some people talk around here. Leave a comment, hit me up on Twitter, message me on Facebook, or send chris.slater@wvgazettemail.com an email.

By Chris Slater

I remember exactly where I was on Jan. 20, 2009. It was the first day of the spring semester at Concord University, during my fifth year of college. It was also the inauguration of the nation’s 44th President, Barack Obama. It was such a happy feeling that day; the mood was so upbeat. My girlfriend and I walked hand-in-hand around campus enjoying the moment. Televisions in every building were airing the festivities live as they happened. To paraphrase a fellow student’s MySpace status I saw that day: Things just felt… fresh.

Let’s fast forward to eight years later, and where I happened to be on Jan. 20, 2017. I’m sitting at a diner in Luray, Virginia with a friend. She and I are staring at our cheeseburgers so that we won’t have to look at the live inauguration on the two televisions in the room. I had just finished covering a protest rally, and quoted the police chief as saying he had been a little worried about all of the counter protesters carrying guns. What’s the opposite of fresh? That’s how the day felt.

donald-trump-picturesWhat did we learn from this last election? Did the right person win? I think that’s a rhetorical question. Did the most qualified person win? I think even the most ardent Trump supporter will admit that he was the least qualified. That was part of his charm. Or, whatever that quality he has is called.

Did the election tell us that the electoral college is bad? In what may shock some of my contemporaries, I will admit that I do see both some pros and cons of the electoral college system. Now, the big con — figuratively, and possibly literally — got elected as a result of the electoral college. But, imagine that we actually had two or three legit, qualified candidates who weren’t offensive train wrecks running. An electoral college system wouldn’t be horrible then.

While Trump is in office, we can try and gleam some insight and wisdom from him. The healthiest president in history couldn’t be a total idiot and get elected to the highest office in the country. Right?

There are actually a few life lessons that we can learn from Trump. If you ignore the comments about African countries and the allegations from several different women against him, he has a few admirable qualities that we should all try to emulate.

Be assertive

Trump didn’t become a billionaire, a reality show star, and president of these United States of America by being a pushover. If you want people to notice you, you need to have an alpha mentality. Find a nicer way of doing it than Trump did; don’t belittle people with nasty nicknames or mock the physically handicapped.

Take chances

In the course of acquiring those billions, Trump lost a lot of money. Airlines, race horses, an arena football team, and a university are just a number of failed entrepreneurial endeavors from Trump. He took a chance on those and failed. But, he took a chance on becoming president and look where we’re at now. Don’t look too hard, though, as it hurts to think about it.

Don’t dwell on mistakes

If you’re running for president as a Republican and mock one of the most-beloved Republicans for being a prisoner of war, that’s a pretty big mistake. If you’re caught on tape commenting that you’re allowed to sexually assault women because you’re famous, that’s a pretty big mistake. But, what did Trump do? He didn’t let it stop him. A verbal faux pas here and there shouldn’t be enough to make you quit following your dreams. Just, try not to refer to all Mexicans as rapists.

Stroke your ego

You need to know the importance of yourself. If you made a good deal, there’s no problem with letting people know. If you made the greatest deal in the history of America, that’s something to talk about as well. There is a difference between being positive and knowing your own self worth and being an obnoxious blowhard. Walk that line closely, but don’t cross it.

Create your own style

If you like the way you look, don’t worry about what others think. If you haven’t noticed, the president has a fairly ridiculous hairstyle. He has enough money to get a decent haircut, but he refuses. Why? Because it’s his look. He doesn’t care, and neither should you.

Million dollar loan

I can not stress enough how important it is to get a loan of $1 million from your family upon graduating college (and some say the loan was much higher). Donald Trump would not be the man he became today without that cash from his father. I’ve noticed that an easy $1 million you don’t have to work for really makes your dreams much easier to attain.

• • •

Do you have any other tips for success from our president? Leave them in the comments section. Any other thoughts? Let me know here, over at Facebook, send me a tweet, or hit up the email (chris.slater@wvgazettemail.com).

bigBy Chris Slater

Sitting in a packed newsroom, I often hear things going on around me. I didn’t think much of it when I was hearing talk of the Big Brothers Big Sisters of South Central West Virginia group losing a lot of funding. I didn’t know any details, and thought to myself, “Shame. But, that happens.”

Then I read the article. And then I got angry.

The group had somewhere between $60,000 to $80,000 in local grants taken away, and the Raleigh County office recently shut down due to them being unable to make up that money.

Why did they lose that money? Nobody can say for sure, but here’s what we know: the organization had recently received a $20,000 grant to assist with training staff members in LGBTQ issues.

From the original article, Sara McDowell, the local group’s executive director said about the grant:

“I said, ‘Yes, we would be interested,’ especially considering that, earlier this year, UCLA came out with a study that found West Virginia has the highest number of teens who identify themselves as transgendered,” McDowell said.

What happened shortly after that grant was announced? From McDowell: “[W]e were notified that a representative for several donors wanted to discuss issues we had been previously unaware of.”

She declined to announce who was rescinding their donations, but did note: “I don’t think the timing is coincidental,” McDowell said. “It is my opinion that the LGBTQ program was not going to be welcomed by the representative for those donors. That’s based on my experience with the donor representative and the conversations I’ve had with others.”

So, basically, what we have here is a situation where this group received money that would help them better meet the needs of LGBTQ kids in their care. After hearing that, some people got upset and pulled their funding.

There is one word for that: reprehensible. Well, there are a lot of other words I could use, but those may not be fit for print.

To the people who heard that their money was going to an organization that wants to help LGBTQ kids and decided to pull their funding: you are more disgusting than you could ever imagine homosexuality to be. You are what’s wrong with the world; not a boy who likes kissing another boy.

People like you are the reason that LGBTQ kids need this extra help and assistance. They feel ostracized in their community because of people stuck in some antiquated “Adam and Eve, not Adam and Steve” way of living.

Because of your actions, if some of these LGBTQ kids do not get the assistance, help, or compassion that they need, I hope you’re ready for any consequences. If one of those kids doesn’t know what to do anymore and grabs a bottle of pills, ties a rope around their neck, or cocks a gun, I hope you know that the blood is on your hands.

This whole situation is disgusting, and I hope the names of those who took away their donations becomes public. Those are the people who need to be shamed and ostracized, not some innocent kids who are trying to discover who they are.

The introduction: What is 30-Something?

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By Chris Slater

Please allow me to introduce myself. I’m the writer for “30-Something,” the newest blog for the Charleston Gazette-Mail. A little about me: I’ve been a lifelong resident of West Virginia for roughly 30 of my 31 years. I spent 15 months working at a newspaper in Luray, Virginia from late 2015 to early 2017. (If you’re wondering, Virginia and West Virginia are essentially the same, with the main exception being that Virginia has an obsession with the Civil War… which is weird, because… you know… they were on the wrong side.)

I’ve been a writer all of my life. The first time I realized that words could be powerful was in the third grade. Mrs. Beverly gave the class a simple assignment: write the funniest story, and our laughter would judge the winner. I crafted a tale about a time I fell down a hill and got the loudest reaction. After that, I was hooked.

Two things stick out from the night I went to Ravenswood High School in 2000 for a tour and to pick out ninth grade classes: for the first time ever I saw a little person, and I also signed up for my first journalism class. The next year, tenth grade in Princeton High School, was when I fell in love with journalism and realized it was what I was going to do with the rest of my life.

Life isn’t always a fairy tale; things don’t always go the way you would prefer. I spent way too much of my 20s wasting my potential, being a manager at Pizza Hut and waiting tables at Outback Steakhouse. But, I eventually woke up and went out to make something of myself. That’s still a work in progress.

My journey has taken me to the Charleston Gazette-Mail, where I’ve been a copy editor since March, checking grammar and designing pages. I always want to be the best at everything I can do. I want to contribute to the team and “maximize my minutes,” to throw out a sports cliché. In fact, it’s the main reason I left my last job in Luray; I kept asking if I could help out and do more, and kept getting told no.

I started writing some op-eds for the Gazette opinion page. Mostly about politics. And I started reading the opinion section closely. I noticed a trend here in my newsroom that also seemed to extend nationwide: the editorial voice of the newspaper wasn’t talking to me. It wasn’t talking to a 31-year-old man, and it surely wasn’t talking to anybody younger.

Now, don’t get me wrong: people of all ages need to pick up the Gazette-Mail, as well as any other local or national paper. The news is all-ages friendly; you definitely need to be reading that. But, young people in the area didn’t have a specific home for just their issues and concerns. And, that got me thinking. And, plotting. And, starting a blog.

That’s the goal behind 30-Something. This is the home for all issues that Young America cares about. In the forthcoming posts, we’re going to be talking about life, love, sex, relationships, careers, LGBT rights, women’s issues (#metoo), money, social media, body image, style, politics, drugs, mental health and more.

Join me here, once a week, as we take a look at all of those issues. I encourage reader participation, either here in the comments, on Facebook or over at Twitter, or send me an email (chris.slater@wvgazettemail.com).