Any healthy democratic society fosters discussion among constituents, but I think our national “discussions” have morphed into something completely and entirely unproductive.
Last month there was an article published in the Wesleyan Argus that raised national eyebrows over its inquiry into the validity of the “Black Lives Matter” movement. It was certainly a controversial piece, and at a school like Wesleyan there was bound to be backlash. But I couldn’t believe just how incensed people were. The attacks on the author and the paper’s editing staff were immediate. There were even petitions online to defund The Argus. I thought this was crazy, until it actually happened. The Wesleyan student government unanimously voted to slash funding to The Argus by over half.
Surely I’m not the only one who thinks that all of this is insane. The Argus has a 147-year history as an outlet for student voices in the school community. In that time there had to have been more than a few controversial pieces, yet the paper has continued to publish. I understand that Wesleyan is a private university, and can do whatever it likes with its money, but what’s the point of free speech if it comes with qualifiers of “political correctness?”
I’m less concerned about The Argus than I am about the “activists” who crawled out of their caves to pounce on this story. What is an “activist” these days other than someone who gets really mad when their views come into question? A dissenting view, however misguided it may seem, shouldn’t send someone into a frenzied rage. But these people hear something they don’t like, and they’re out for blood. As if it’s personally insulting to possess a differing outlook. It’s not just “you’re wrong and here’s why,” it’s “you’re wrong and you should feel bad, and oh by the way I’m taking your newspaper down too.” Where’s the discussion? Are people really this immature?
I’ve been ragging on Wesleyan students, but they’re just the latest example. Look what’s happened to our presidential elections. We hang on every word in an attempt to create controversy where there is none. You don’t think that’s diminished the quality of candidates we get? You think an intelligent person of substance, a JFK or an Eisenhower, is going to step out into this hailstorm? Hell no. If you bend a person to this mind-numbing level of political correctness, you sacrifice the genuine parts of their personality. That’s just human nature.
Only a few weeks ago, The Collegian became embroiled in our own nice little controversy. Did wonders for our readership, so thank you all for that. I don’t care much about the specifics of what happened. What bothered me was how nasty some people got. Since when does someone’s opinion, however incorrect you believe it to be, warrant personal attacks on his or her character? I don’t care if someone writes that the world is flat and the sun orbits the earth. It’s not a personal attack on you. Cool your jets.
I’m not advocating we toss down our beliefs and join hands in a circle of friendship. But being passionate is much different from being mean-spirited. If your response to someone’s opinion is rage and aggression toward that person’s character, you should check yourself. With these tough national topics, it’s completely and utterly foolish to believe that one side is any more right than the other.
And if one of you disagrees with my article, I encourage you to respond in kind. I won’t even be mad. In fact, I’ll have to edit the damn thing.
Contact opinions editor Joe DiBello at firstname.lastname@example.org