In times when the U.S. faces potential existential threats from numerous sources that vary from North Korea to ISIS, the United States of America needs to again learn how to be united as one country. In order for that to happen, we absolutely must learn to listen to each other, if we’re ever going to have a constructive dialogue that allows us to reach common ground.
However, too many people have become convinced that they are the arbiters of right versus wrong, so their opinions are the only opinions that matter. They believe they know best, so others who might disagree shouldn’t even be heard.
To accomplish this, let’s say you believe that greenhouse gases created by human activity are destroying the environment,. You might choose to label someone who disagrees with you a climate denier, in order to stigmatize and silence them. In this context, the “denier” has refused to acknowledge truth. Conversely, if you think that it’s a foolish overreaction to drastically change our consumption of energy because computer models suggest concentrations of a trace element in the atmosphere have increased over time as fossil fuels are burned, you might choose to describe the opposing point of view as climate alarmism rather than legitimate concern. If only the two sides would be willing to meet on neutral ground and discuss their concerns about the impact on climate resulting from energy consumption, we might be able to figure out if a reasonable and constructive solution exists — assuming the alleged problems are real, of course. For many, it is simply assumed to be a scientific consensus.
Likewise, if you support a woman’s right to legal abortion, you might be tempted to demonize pro-lifers as people opposed to a woman’s “reproductive” rights. The pro-life crowd can demonize the other side by called them baby killers. If the goal is to antagonize your opponent in the debate, mission accomplished. But if you hoped to persuade them that your argument is superior because of logic and evidence, you have zero chance of success.
If you support gay marriage, you might think it’s terrific when a gay couple applies the powerful jackboot of government in forcing a Christian florist or baker to cater a gay wedding or lose their business, but what about the gay coffee shop owner throws a group of Christian patrons out of his business?
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In order to consistent in my beliefs, I’ve got to support the right of this coffee shop owner to refuse service. I’ll never force a business to take my money, if they don’t want it, and if I’m going to support the florist and baker for refusing to provide service to a gay wedding, I’ve got to let the coffee shop owner throw out the Christian patrons. Hey, if he only wants to serve LBGT people, he’s reduced his potential customer base to only 3.8 percent of the total population. The problems come when the “other” side simply isn’t interested in hearing what someone like me (white, male) might have to say. If we don’t somehow learn how to calm down and listen to each other, these problems are never going to get solved. Not long ago, a feminist told me that I have no right to an opinion on abortion because I don’t have a uterus.
Who made that rule?
Consider the woman involved in the incident recorded in the video below. She doesn’t seem to realize that she’s broken the law by confiscating the man’s hat because she doesn’t like the message to “Make America Great Again.”
In the course of her hysterical rant, the student admits that she hates America and doesn’t think it was ever a great country. Her anger is irrational, and her rhetoric nonsensical. Most importantly, she honestly believes that she has the right to deny a fellow citizen of their right of free speech. She doesn’t seem to understand that she’s asking the people in authority to support her breaking the law — taking someone’s property without permission could either be considered theft or petty larceny.
How do you have an honest conversation with someone who doesn’t grasp the basic difference between right and wrong, and no respect for the law?
[WARNING: OFFENSIVE LANGUAGE]
Where would this young lady get such an idea, that conservatives have no right of free speech? She also seemed oblivious to the fact that her overt, terroristic threats were being recorded, providing evidence of multiple criminal offenses. It never occurred to her that she might be doing something wrong or illegal.
If she had been a student at Princeton, the best explanation of where she got the idea might be the school paper, in which philosophy major Ryan Born wrote an op-ed claiming that in his opinion, conservatives have no right to free speech:
I am not arguing that conservatives do not expect intellectual opposition to their content; instead, I am arguing against their right to be heard and accepted. [emphasis added] I should clarify that I use “conservative” broadly to mean both those politically opposed to progressive aims, but also in particular to refer to those who invoke “free speech” to defend their access to political debate and to forestall political opposition to their viewpoints.
The irony here is quite palpable. Because of the First Amendment, Mr. Born has every right to express his reprehensible opinions, but he would deny that same right to those who would oppose him — making Mr. Born an excellent candidate to become a brutal totalitarian dictator one day, should he ever acquire political power. And while we might like to believe the Princeton op-ed attacking free speech was an aberration, it sadly was not.
An editorial in the Wellesley College student newspaper echoed many of the same sentiments expressed by Mr. Born at Princeton. The Wellesley editorial read in part:
Wellesley is certainly not a place for racism, sexism, homophobia, Islamophobia, transphobia or any other type of discriminatory speech. Shutting down rhetoric that undermines the existence and rights of others is not a violation of free speech; it is hate speech. The founding fathers put free speech in the Constitution as a way to protect the disenfranchised and to protect individual citizens from the power of the government. The spirit of free speech is to protect the suppressed, not to protect a free-for-all where anything is acceptable, no matter how hateful and damaging.
The Wellesley editorial dares to even go a step further than the Princeton op-ed, explaining that violence might be justified to suppress dissenting opinions:
[I]f people are given the resources to learn and either continue to speak hate speech or refuse to adapt their beliefs, then hostility may be warranted.
So…in order to prevent fascist behavior, the solution is to act like a fascist!
That makes perfect sense to me. Wait a minute…”No, strike that, and reverse it!” as Willy Wonka once said. That makes absolutely no sense to me at all. Unfortunately, this sort of intolerant attitude isn’t limited to liberal students on campus. These ideas apparently originated with liberal professors. How can we ever have a conversation with people who insist that we have no right to voice our opinions? Are we only allowed to listen to their lectures, and not permitted to question authority?
Americans are being divided by race, religion, politics, sexual identity, education, geography, and social classes. These divisions are being manufactured on purpose by people who reap financial profit through creating division and strife. The “divide and conquer” mentality is working. We’ve got to stop it. Now. Before things get any worse.
America has always been the greatest country on the face of the earth, because of our freedom. This is the land of opportunity — where government promotes the general welfare, but was never intended to provide it. Because I want to earn more than the residual income my novels currently provide, I also write material for the Resurgent.
If you want to achieve greater success, work harder. That’s my story, and I’m sticking to it.
So, how will we ever have a civil discussion with people who openly admit they refuse to listen? People who would use force to silence us? Violence will only make matters worse.
Physically assaulting someone isn’t going to persuade them to change their mind. Unfortunately, that won’t stop intolerant people from trying such deplorable tactics.
Don’t become part of the problem. Look for ways to be part of the solution.
I would be willing to listen to the coward who used a bike lock as a deadly weapon while hiding behind the mask before running away, assuming he is willing to reciprocate and listens to me when it’s my turn to speak. As long as he’s safely locked in his jail cell, of course.
You don’t have to listen to me, but you’d better learn how to listen to reason.