Abraham Lincoln said that a house divided against itself cannot stand. It appears we are at that point again in this nation. The divide seems to be so large one wonders if it can ever be bridged. Conservative speakers are invited to speak at college campuses and violent protests ensue. The speaker is shut down and cannot give the speech. College administrators stand idly by and either do nothing or side with the protesters. Free speech is in danger. Are there consequences for the students and/or administrators? In almost every instance the answer is no. Those protesting are not willing to debate the issues but instead want to shut down any viewpoint that is inconsistent with their own.
Recently we have seen a female swimmer who was physically attacked when attempting to speak at a college where she was explaining her view that it was unfair for men who choose to identify as a woman to compete in women’s sports. It has gone beyond a protester’s veto and devolved into physical violence.
Law students shout down a federal judge because they disagree with his judicial view on how laws are to be interpreted and applied. The protesters come with masks and the Diversity, Equity and Inclusion school official participates in berating the judge. Were their any consequences for the students? No.
Even at the local level we see irrational responses to views one disagrees with. How dare a local paper print an article by a elected official that is contrary to a view of one of the readers. No freedom of the press allowed.
Where are the adults in the room? It doesn’t seem that there are any. Instead of expelling students who riot and shut down invited speakers, administrators cower in their office while spewing the platitude that the university welcomes free speech. The students are only encouraged to continue their behavior as it has no consequences. And when all else fails there is the tried and true fall back position; the other side is racist, homophobic, anti-transgender and on and on ad nauseum.
Politicians are afraid to take a stance for fear that the mob will come after them next and if they are protective of anything it is their re-election which takes precedence over everything else.
What is it going to take to cause people to be willing to listen to a viewpoint that differs from their own? It has to be a recognition that one is not always, and perhaps never, the smartest person in the room. There may be ideas, beliefs, or thoughts that differ from your own that have significant merit and the wise person would listen and when learning something, modify their own views.
Paul Simon made a cogent observation in his song “The Boxer” where he wrote “still a man hears what he wants to hear and disregards the rest.” That has to change and soon otherwise the danger of fracturing this country beyond repair will come to pass.
— John L. Lengemann