The Loss Of A Dissenting Opinion

Berkeley_glade_afternoonPolitically correct speech crept up on society, but it’s starting to take over. I don’t know how or when it gained such a stranglehold on Western culture, but its grip is tightening.

I knew the climate on many universities has been opposed to open discourse for a long time. And of course laws have been passed about hate speech. Who could disagree that saying hateful things is wrong? But who defines “hateful things”?

Apparently it’s “hateful” to disagree with the prevailing attitude of society. The odd thing is, the First Amendment specifically guarantees that a person has the right to voice a dissenting view, even when that view is contrary to public policy.

Today no one seems concerned about upholding the First Amendment. It’s become much more important to stop people from speaking against prevailing attitudes.

For example, though Donald Sterling was illegally taped in a private conversation, his remarks, deemed racist, earned him a lifetime ban by the NBA.

When “the first openly gay football player” was drafted in the NFL and kissed his male partner with the cameras rolling, another athlete tweeted his negative reaction. The next day, after the media, soundly criticized him for his “insensitive” comments, he was made to apologize.

When the tape of Ray Rice hitting his girlfriend became public, another well-known person expressed his view on Twitter about how he’d respond to someone, even a woman, hitting him. The next day, after being lambasted by the media, he also apologized.

Of course these dissenting opinions involve things society, or the media which voices “accepted societal practice,” has determined to be right or wrong: gay relationships, racism, domestic violence. Hence, no dissenting opinion is allowed.

I find this troubling! Even if a person is wrong, as they have been many times—see, for example, the burning of the American flag during the Vietnam era—the Constitution and the Supreme Court have supported their right to say what they believed (or to act out their view).

Now it seems one publicly-funded school has decided that “sectarian” material, particularly books written by Christians or published by Christian publishers or about Christian subject matter, does not belong in their library. Most notably they have removed The Hiding Place by Corrie ten Boom about her experiences during World War II, including her involvement in hiding Jews from Nazis in the Netherlands, being betrayed, and ending up in a concentration camp.

Yes, Corrie ten Boom was motivated by her Christianity, and she was comforted and counseled by the Bible in the concentration camp, so apparently those facts earned The Hiding Place the label of “sectarian.” Should this story prove to be true (so far, every article I’ve found derives its information from the press release of a single organization), it’s an appalling event, but completely consistent with the others which point to a decline of free expression of ideas—religious ones as well as controversial private ones or public ones that a powerful organization deems to be “offensive.”

When, I wonder, will all Christian ideas be “offensive”?

Of course there’s also the story about the Christian college campus ministry, InterVarsity, which was de-recognized by the California State University school system. Or how about the Florida college that ruled the same Christian organization couldn’t require Christians to lead the group.

In all these instances, the common thread seems to be an unwillingness to allow groups or books or individuals to have a dissenting voice. We are no longer a society that encourages thought and reasoned discourse. Instead we slander those with whom we disagree.

For instance, one site, AnnoyedLibrarian, in reporting the removal of The Hiding Place from the charter school’s library shelves had this to say:

I was unfamiliar with Corrie ten Boom or her book The Hiding Place, but if the Wikipedia entries are accurate, it does seem like the book is pretty Christian. Supposedly, the entire time she and her sister were in a German concentration camp, they “used a hidden Bible to teach their fellow prisoners about Jesus,” because not enough people had told the Jewish prisoners that they were wrong to be Jewish.

And later, this:

If The Hiding Place were actually removed from the library collection, it’s likely because the book wasn’t used at all. Unused books get cleared away to make room for something else.

If you want to teach kids about the Holocaust, using the testimony of a Christian evangelist doesn’t make a lot of sense, so only teachers who wanted to evangelize their students would have used it, and most of them probably don’t teach in California charter schools.

After all, there must be some other book that might help students learn about hiding Jews from Nazis during the war, maybe one whose main audience is broader than that of evangelical Christians, perhaps a book written by an actual Jewish person who was in fact hidden from the Nazis, and maybe she could be roughly the same age as the students who are learning about her, helping the students to identify with her more.

There must be a book like that out there somewhere.

The reference, I’m assuming, is to The Diary of Anne Frank, as if that one book is all that’s allowed to tell the story of Jews and their plight during World War II. As if the story of Christians motivated by their faith to do what is right at the risk of their lives is somehow less important or trivial or insignificant in light of the startling revelations of a coming of age teen.Alexander_Yakushev,_February_2012_reading_Pravda

No, we are fast becoming a society which only wants uni-think. It reminds me of the old quip: “My mind’s made up; don’t confuse me with facts.” We don’t want debate because we have no intention of changing our minds. And we don’t want anyone else telling us we should change our minds.

If debate dies, we might as well simply ask Pravda, uh, the Associated Press what it is we should think.

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2 Comments

  1. So very true! Thank you for the post, Becky!

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  2. Thanks for your feedback! I appreciate you taking the time.

    Becky

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