I like this essay, succinct and vehement about non-censorship, two qualities I cherish. As a college instructor and mother of two socio-politically conscious teenagers, I flinch at shutting anyone out, up or off. My job as teacher and mother is to foster thinking and feed young people a steady diet of food for thought. Censorship directly conflicts with those efforts whether the censor’s intent is benevolent or malignant.
Most censors simply want to craft a world better conforming to their own comfort level, and many believe protecting the sensibilities and exposure to harm of the vulnerable–children, the wounded, or ill–outweighs prohibiting thoughts/words/symbols of the able, a seemingly charitable and compassionate endeavor. But though well-intentioned, intolerance and censorship buds from the well-meaning as well as the malicious, and from the right and the left, the latter with their pretensions of superior tolerance, disregarding opinions of others on the grounds of sensitivity, i.e., controlling words that hurt others’ feelings or trigger traumatic memories, is no less intolerant and censorship than right wing fascists trying to outlaw the words “global warming.”
Noam Chomsky and Bailey Lamon, who quotes Chomsky in “Why this Radical Leftist is Disillusioned by Leftist Culture”, say it best:
“If we don’t believe in freedom of expression for people we despise, we don’t believe in it at all.”
Encouraging my children to seek the heights of compassion and sensitivity respecting others’ sensibilities somehow ran aground when they interpreted that as outshouting or blocking others they deem insensitive on social media, or even in real life. One of my daughters quit her boyfriend over his disbelief that a disproportionate number of African Americans are incarcerated in America.
They, like their peers, go too far. And like Lamon concedes, no one advocates racism and bigotry as acceptable. But opinions should not be feared and those who differ shunned just because they are not leftist-approved.
History, something few college kids remember, teaches us that freedom of speech is the very embodiment of U.S. suffering, rebellion and founding ideals. Better to hurt someone’s feelings than give up that battled-for right.