10. I’m OK, You’re Not
When I was in high school (don’t ask how long ago), Thomas A. Harris, M.D. wrote the book “I’m OK, You’re OK: A Practical Guide to Transactional Analysis.” Despite selling millions of copies, our country seems to have shifted to an alternative life position of “I’m OK, You’re Not OK.” But not only do many believe that others are not OK, they want their views suppressed so as not to influence others. In one sense, this is understandable. If a person wholeheartedly believes that the opinions of others are incendiary and would cause great harm if adopted by others, it’s easy to see why they would not want those opposing ideas disseminated. But what these people tend to forget is that if it is acceptable to try to silence the other side, then it is equally acceptable for the other side to attempt silencing them. Trying to shut down the other side is also a sign of a weak position in that one doesn’t believe he can win the debate in the court of public opinion.
In 1992 Nat Hentoff addressed this censoring problem in his book “Free Speech for Me--But Not for Thee: How the American Left and Right Relentlessly Censor Each Other.” It was quite a good read, showing how many people desperately want the right to speak freely about anything, but just as desperately want to silence those people that disagree with them. As in most cases, very few listened to his plea to fully embrace the First Amendment to our Constitution.
Things seem to have gotten worse. You see the political left and the right talking about shutting down reporters or commentators that speak critically of them. You see the rise of political correctness, which is just a way for one group of people to silence another group of people. You see invited speakers, especially on college campuses, having their speeches disrupted by irate screaming protesters. You see the rise of calling any disliked opinions “hate speech,” with the accompanying attempts at making this speech illegal.
Unfortunately, this problem is being perpetuated by many of our country’s universities. In some cases, the school administration is fine with one group of students suppressing the speech of others, but not the reverse. It’s gotten so bad on some campuses that many have resorted to free speech zones, which is a small area on campus where students are permitted to speak freely. But step outside that zone and you suddenly lose your First Amendment rights. Oftentimes, students who have the audacity to speak freely outside that zone must attend sensitivity training. Repeated offenses can lead to expulsion.
Fortunately, there is an organization that is fighting for students’ free speech rights on the entirety of America’s campuses. It is called FIRE, which stands for Foundation for Individual Rights in Education. Consider them. They are worthy of your support.
So, where will our future politicians come from? Most likely, our universities. That is why the suppression of free speech on our campuses is so frightening. If our future politicians come out of their universities believing it is acceptable to win a debate with their opponents by silencing them, perhaps even imprisoning them, then we will soon lose our democracy and our freedom and we will end up led by a tyrannical dictator. NOT GOOD! NOT GOOD!