The Importance Of Cordial Discussions

The Decline of Free Speech in America

September 26, 2016

Allan Stevo
 

I was once a proud socialist.

I exposed those deeply held views to scrutiny.

They did not hold up.

I was left with the same core beliefs for a more just world. I just came to recognize a more just world wouldn’t be made a reality by chasing politicians down a promised path to utopia.

I continued my reading and have written some 300 essays and opinion pieces on this topic and related topics. At the core of nearly everything I write is some search for truth and some understanding of freedom and justice.

Socialism is the most cockeyed idea. It does not “work” in any actual sense. It has nearly zero economic grounding in reality. It tends to be a dream of people with big hearts and a limited grasp on reality. It has caused poverty, war, starvation, and general suffering throughout the world that would not have occurred if the shitty socialist government in question just folded up and went on permanent vacation, leaving people to their own devices.

I am so thoroughly read in so many areas of the political spectrum and have done everything from personally knocking on doors for politicians to writing speeches for politicians to fundraising for politicians to escorting politicians through the door of high profile events to training others to do the same to running campaigns to even being a candidate for federal office. From the very theoretical to the very concrete nuts and bolts application of politics, I am incredibly well-experienced.

Through this all, I have been exposed to the Hinlicky Rule.

Though I am better educated on economics and politics than virtually anyone I ever meet during the course of my day, more widely published and have engaged in a wider array of discussions;

Though I have painfully time and again taken deeply held beliefs and challenged them to the point of rejecting them and I know as a result have had a very robust gauntlet that my ideas have gone through;

Despite all that I am never ever an asshole to anyone in a discussion.

That’s because I have first-hand met the widows of intolerance. When religion becomes fundamentalist or political thought becomes fundamentalist, those widows of intolerance are not far behind. There is an attempt to co-opt the word intolerance in English to mean “intolerant against people who share my viewpoint.”

This trend I have seen from my friends on the left. Some of my friends on the right couldn’t care less about the world feeling intolerant. To some of them, that’s just part of life for many people and not worth talking about. Some of my friends on the left would agree. The co-opting of the term intolerance is taking place among the progressive left.

Intolerance is certainly not a term owned by any segment of a population. Intolerance can by brutally levied on anyone. Where there is peaceful behavior, brutally levying intolerance is not an acceptable response from a society or government.

I have firsthand felt the pain of extremism. This extremism is a scary tendency that the American left is trending towards.

Despite all that and more I refuse to address anyone like an asshole even when I hear the most trite, poorly regurgitated opinions of others for what may well be the 400th time over the course of a year. Trite opinions tend to repeat themselves easily and reproduce through a society, often with the opinion holder certain that his truth is the highest, greatest, most original truth.

Because we are all on a journey. And some of those people are exactly where I once was on that journey, familiar territory is what I see in their words. I know what questions got me from where I was then to where I went after and ultimately to where I am now, a place I am unlikely to stay for long for constant challenging and growth is so central to how I understand ideas, as opposed to being some final destination that one can get comfortable with once one has arrived there. They may never even set foot where I am today. That’s okay. They may be on a very different journey than me. I nonetheless honor the risks they take along that path.

Anger however, and hostility, in response to honest inquiry is too much for me. The American left has lost its credibility nationally. What was once the territory of the kind-hearted, tough, effective Ralph Nader – a thoughtful socialist with whom I agree on key issues has become the Chicago-style bullying of Saul Alinksy. I knew the Chicago style bullying was always present on the left, since I am no stranger to political strategy sessions in support of candidates and ideas throughout the political spectrum and I grew up in Chicago politics. It has now become so apparent though, so impossible to ignore, so public, so national.

I don’t feel bad about being bullied. I am excellent at taking off the gloves. It is not a plea for my own self-defense or self-preservation. This has nothing to do with anyone bullying me. A segment of the American left is so incredibly guilty of a level of escalation against an ugly law and order element of the American right. I do not like the ominous outcome that such a series of events foretell.

When Bernie Sanders supporters are beating Donald Trump supporters bloody in the streets, something inaccurate is taking place in America. Words are not enough justification to provoke a person into a fight. “I’m offended” is no excuse to look the other way when violence occurs. Triggering is not a real thing among people who seek to be viewed as and treated like functioning adults. Kids will be kids, is no excuse for violence in response to political free speech.

The American left has become a physical bully, has become a social bully, and is correspondingly becoming increasingly closed off to cordial political discussion.

This is a sad development to take note of, and from a segment of American society that I have long found to be capable of discourse. Viewing myself as removed from the left-right dichotomy, I see no particular appreciation for any faction in that dichotomy. I do though find great displeasure in the increasingly aggressive and violent American left and the lack of opprobrium that comes from within its ranks.

How quickly I’ve watched these descents from freedom into chaos take place in other countries. How many stories I’ve heard. I’ve always felt until now, that America was just a little bit more capable of honoring the concepts of freedom than people in the rest of the world. This is ceasing to be the case. Honest, open discourse is being met with such violence in America and it’s coming from the left. The importance of preserving that liberty in America is vital, for if it were to disappear the world would be left without a comparable example.

I can’t imagine how threatened a person must feel to be a part of that, how intellectually inferior they must view their own ideas, how socially inferior they must view themselves.

No matter what happens in the world around me, I know what I believe, I know how capable and comfortable I am of challenging my own ideas and entertaining the ideas of another, no matter how contrary or threatening to my own they may seem. It wouldn’t be a terrible thing for others to calm down a little and learn to do the same. This is a much more productive response than the more base, and to some twisted minds, more gratifying, shift toward violence.

No matter how hatefully a person speaks, no matter how much privilege a person has and is unwilling to recognize, no matter how disgusted you can get yourself worked up about a person that you feel extreme dislike for, there is no reason for a thinking person to do violence on another who is simply trying to walk into a political gathering and to hear someone speak about contemporary policy. If you have any serious faith in yourself and your own ideas, laugh at someone like that and go about your life.

Having stood as a proud socialist once upon a time, and all the disgusting things that association means to me, and all the pain that concept has caused in the world, I am most disgusted right now watching Americans behave with little understanding of the freedoms that make America special. The world is a very unfree and unjust place and the world needs a free America to help illuminate what heights can be reached with that pursuit of greater freedom. If America ever descends into something less pleasant, and with less freedom, the world will have lost a functioning country that guides all the others by example toward what a good life can be lived, not a perfect life but a good life, in the presence of a free people, as uncomfortable as it may be, agreeing to freedom for all.

My understanding of the extreme fragility of freedom makes the easy way Americans are trifling with that concept sad to watch and makes any escalation of tension between the progressive left and the law and order right, an attack on the freedom that America has found to be such a successful model, despite some of its shortcomings, and that the world has looked to as a model for what can be aspired to and maybe even one day improved upon.

No matter the opinions being spoken, he who does violence to a free man seeking to exercise his right to communicate those opinions is no friend of mine. I hope you will agree with me that he should be no friend of yours either. For while I may not agree with what you have to say, I insist that you be able to say it.

Allan Stevo writes on Slovak culture at www.52inSk.com. He is from Chicago and spends most of his time traveling Europe and writing. You can find more of his writing at www.AllanStevo.com. If you enjoyed this post, please use the buttons below to like it on Facebook or to share it with your friends by email. You can sign up for emails on Slovak culture from 52 Weeks in Slovakia by clicking here.

Photo credit: comicsbulletin.com, scncucc.org, twitter.com,

This entry was posted in Uncategorized. Bookmark the permalink. Follow any comments here with the RSS feed for this post. Both comments and trackbacks are currently closed.

Comments

  • Interesting perspective and thank you. We hear about the right and the left and each has had its primacy in the last twenty years in American politics. And the debt is over 19 trillion….We need discourse but it does not seem like either side has any commitment to make the hard decisions that take a more long term view on how to handle our problems.

  • join our mailing list
  • Recent Posts

  • Recent Comments on 52inSk.com