The rhetoric stemming from the Left toward conservatives and those who supported Donald Trump has grown increasingly shrill and violent — and it doesn’t show signs of abating anytime soon. When people run over elected officials or heckle them when they talk about their terminally ill child, social justice warfare has gone too far.
And then there’s Keri Smith. She runs a talent management firm and characterizes herself on her Twitter profile this way: “I Trade in Laughs. Classical Liberalism. Feminism. Peace. Equality. Do not believe in Right/Left. Former SJW.”
That last part is the most important: former SJW, and she has taken to the internet to elaborate on leaving what she calls the “SJW Cult.” Her post at Medium is brave and self-revelatory. Smith’s disillusionment with the Social Justice Warrior camp stems from the type or rhetoric that is coming more and more to categorize the Left. She writes:
I see increasing numbers of so-called liberals cheering censorship and defending violence as a response to speech. I see seemingly reasonable people wishing death on others and laughing at escalating suicide and addiction rates of the white working class. I see liberal think pieces written in opposition to expressing empathy or civility in interactions with those with whom we disagree. I see 63 million Trump voters written off as “nazis” who are okay to target with physical violence. I see concepts like equality and justice being used as a mask for resentful, murderous rage.
Smith admits that not everyone on the Left behaves this way and she particularly praises her friends for not resorting to rhetoric like we’ve seen. Still, she’s painfully aware of what’s happening out there, and she has the perfect explanation for the social justice warrior mentality.
How easy is it for ordinary humans to commit atrocious acts? History teaches us it’s pretty damn easy when you are blinded to your own hypocrisy. When you believe you are morally superior, when you have dehumanized those you disagree with, you can justify almost anything. In a particularly vocal part of the left, justification for dehumanizing and committing violence against those on the right has already begun.
Smith likens the angry, dehumanizing factions on the Left to adherents of a religion, with the terminology they use designed to point out the sins of those who dare disagree. Terms like “mansplaining” and “gaslighting” along with admonitions to “check your privilege” immediately serve to relegate opponents to a lesser status.
Where have these revelations and new ideas led for Smith? She has begun a process of what she calls “self-improvement,” which includes spirituality, psychology, and philosophy. She’s begun looking at what makes her tick, observing her reactions to the world around her, and making adjustments.
The author notes that her friends have seen her new attitude as refreshing, and it truly is. But what does it mean for those with whom she disagrees? She has come to the conclusion that change won’t take place if the rhetoric stays ratcheted up so high. Neither side will make much headway when all the voices are shouting.
It is not enough to speak about a belief in equality, justice, liberty, tolerance and love if by your actions you are illustrating the opposite by dehumanizing people, calling for their murder, justifying physical violence against them. Your actions speak louder than words.
Smith may not ever change her core ideology, but that’s just fine, especially if she can help tone down the heated, hate-filled debate going on in the world today. She and I may never see eye to eye on, well, anything, but I’m pleased to hear Keri Smith’s thoughts as she does her part to make the world a better place. Good for you, Keri, and thank you.