Over the last few years we’ve seen some seismic changes in our nation, and it’s tough to know where it began. We used to be a society with an attitude of “live and let live” and “agree to disagree” toward our differences, even when it comes to the most fundamental of disagreements. But these days, I can’t help but wonder: why have Americans become so sensitive?
In 21st century America, we suffer a sort of tyranny of the offended, having to walk on eggshells everywhere we go. Our speech isn’t even free these days. As Ann Coulter so astutely pointed out a few years ago:
Liberals are obsessed with language and controlling the words people use. If they can control our words, they can control us. They simultaneously promote as many languages as possible in American — other than English — and frantically censor words and speakers. Soon the only words we’ll be allowed to use are: “I’m offended.” (“Estoy offendido.”)
Everyone must tiptoe around in order to avoid setting off the alarms of the offended. And there’s no statute of limitations on past offenses either — even if there’s no concrete action to back up the offending words. Say something that offends someone else in public, or admit that you said it in the past, and you’re just as bad as someone who tortures puppies or knocks grocery bags out of the hands of old ladies.
Remember the controversy surrounding celebrity chef Paula Deen a couple of years ago? She admitted to using the N-word (the only word it seems is off limits these days) in one instance about 30 years prior, and the media treated her like she had burned a whole field of crosses. Some of her sponsors dropped her like a pariah, and the Food Network canned her like a bumper crop of veggies from the garden. Deen had the last laugh, of course, picking up new sponsors and launching lucrative new ventures. Don’t get me wrong — I’m not justifying using racial epithets, but uttering one years ago in the depths of anger (in Deen’s case, she was describing a bank robber who pointed a gun at her head) does not make one a racist now.
And now we have to worry about microaggressions. Psychologist Derald Wing Sue defines microaggressions as
…the everyday verbal, nonverbal, and environmental slights, snubs, or insults, whether intentional or unintentional, which communicate hostile, derogatory, or negative messages to target persons based solely upon their marginalized group membership. In many cases, these hidden messages may invalidate the group identity or experiential reality of target persons, demean them on a personal or group level, communicate they are lesser human beings, suggest they do not belong with the majority group, threaten and intimidate, or relegate them to inferior status and treatment.
It’s not enough that we have to watch every little thing we say in public and private, we now have to tailor every single mannerism to avoid offending the sensitive. According to Dr. Wing Sue, if a person notices a woman clutching her purse tighter as she walks by, he or she has every right to be offended, because that’s a microaggression. Don’t speak too loudly to a blind person, because that might be seen as you assuming that he or she is disabled in other ways, too. And on and on it goes. Even the most innocent of actions can come across as offensive to someone else, and Lord knows we can’t have that.
Take a look at what’s happening on college campuses these days. When I studied at the University of Georgia in the early ’90s, the college experience was still one where students could receive exposure to a wide array of viewpoints — even conservative ones. Nowadays, liberal students unite to silence voices that dissent from the orthodoxy of the Far Left, often in the name of avoiding offense. Left-leaning professors have begun to express their fear of these students, proving that the system they set up to promulgate leftism is blowing up in their faces:
Modern progressive college students have become so militant they’re frightening their own like-minded professors, according to an account posted by one such professor on the website Vox.
The professor, using the pseudonym Edward Schlosser, claims to have taught for nine years and currently works at a midsize state college. Over that time, he says, students have decisively shifted to become so protective of their fragile emotions that defying their sensibilities can be “suicidal” for one’s career.
Perhaps this is how the Left will consume itself.
The latest rage on college campuses are “safe spaces,” where students can get away from ideas that offend or hurt them. It’s even more ridiculous than it sounds on the surface, and it proves how we’ve gone too far.
…in one instance, when a student group at Brown University called the Sexual Assault Task Force discovered that a debate was to be held where one participant, a libertarian, would slam the term “rape culture,” the group protested to the administration. That prompted Brown’s president, Christina H. Paxson, to schedule a talk concurrent with the debate that would provide “research and facts” about “the role of culture in sexual assault.” A “safe space” was created for students upset by the debate; the space included cookies, coloring books, bubbles, Play-Doh, calming music, pillows, blankets, and a video of puppies.
The early educational establishment had intended for the college experience to raise young, independently thinking adults, but instead our universities are producing spoiled, hypersensitive brats who cannot seem to grasp the simple truth that not everyone is going to agree with them.
We grew up with the notion that part of what made America great was the unity our country possessed among so many different backgrounds, philosophies, and opinions. The motor that drove this nation was once E Pluribus Unum — “out of many, one,” but these days that’s not the case. The Left has fought tooth and nail to replace “live and let live” and “agree to disagree” with a coerced acquiescence to Leftist orthodoxy, and they’ve done so by crowing offenses loudly. It’s time we put a stop to it.