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As you sow, so may you reap

May 7, 2015

Lately on my Facebook page I’ve been posting my thoughts and links to articles about the erosion of free speech on college campuses. This diminishing of a basic Constitutional right didn’t start out simply as the determination to limit what people say, but goes much deeper into such things as Marxist thinking about oppression by those in power, the elevation of individualistic/subjectivistic values, the final authority of personal rights defined by individual interests, and more, culminating in a narrow focus on oppression of particular groups by the great hegemonic power of the West. Ideas which may have some good are applied woodenly, and the faithful gallop on like horses with blinders that block the bigger view. There is an obsessive focus on and implementation of these concerns that leaves common sense in the dust.

In the article quoted below, Heather Wilhelm illustrates that first with concerns expressed in a UK Guardian article about potential political problems on Mars when (and if) it’s colonized (yes, I’m serious), and toward the end makes this comment about a recent terrorist event in Garland, Texas:

“Amazingly, in the wake of an attempted terrorist attack on American soil, countless pundits and politicians rushed to condemn, first and foremost, not the would-be murderers, but the cartoons—and, by extension, the people who drew them. In a free society, the implications of this are fairly stunning. But when you think about it in terms with our growing cultural fixations and fears, it sort of makes sense. After all, is there a better metaphor for an oppression-based imaginary monster than an ‘incendiary,’ ‘offensive’ drawing in pen and ink?”

At the top of our list of social rules is the admonition to not offend anyone (except for the aforementioned historical hegemonic powers of the West). But what if the tide shifts in the other direction? Will those who today are so willing to restrict others’ freedoms be happy if one day theirs are so restricted?

As an example of how this plays out in real life, in a recent article posted on The Witherspoon Institute’s Public Discourse Website, Dawn Stefanowicz discusses the loss of rights in Canada connected with the fear of offending people who demand the right to same-sex marriage. The moral obligation to not denigrate people with our words has morphed into laws against hate speech which enforce compliance, at least in speech, with social changes many people still find immoral.

In the US, will we continue to watch our basic rights slip away because some people can’t stand to hear opposing ideas? I challenge our political parties this electoral season to make a part of their platforms the oppression we all will experience if our basic rights (including freedom of speech) are further eroded in the effort to avoid upsetting certain groups or classes of people.

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From → American society

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