Trump, Free Speech and a Conversation

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Bigot! Nazi! White supremacist!

… Really?

They are becoming baseless (and now, unfortunately, trivialized) terms thrown around in recent times in wake of the election of Donald Trump and his latest actions in office (mind you they’re often not about him, and even were said about Canadian PM Justin Trudeau by Black Lives Matter Canada’s founder). No conversation – not even general niceness included. And, seemingly more and more often, violent protests come with them! Is there any room for real conversation with how things are going? Is there a way to move forward?

Opportunities in the Wake

Perhaps contrary to the opinions of some, I think there is great opportunity in these times. The controversial election win is surprising, and many think that it is going to hurt diversity and freedom in America. I think the worries aren’t unreasonable – but don’t think it has to end up that way. I think there is opportunity for conversation with the Republican win – a conversation that has not been happening much in our far Western culture. The liberal/Leftwing extremism and intolerance that has become even more obvious in recent times (as well and humbly confessed to by liberal Nicholas Kristof in the NY Times) has gone too far, in my opinion, and a Trump victory might mean that such extremism is not allowed to gain too strong a foothold. Or at the least, we will all be forced to have the conversations we have been avoiding. Let me explain.

First, what is this liberal extremism and intolerance? Kristof gives us examples when he explains several Facebook comments that illustrate a liberal arrogance that discriminates against conservative perspectives, writing them off without discussion. He states that while many people who follow him on Facebook care about social issues from human trafficking to abused chickens they don’t seem to care that academia is discriminating against conservatives in general and Christians in particular. To such liberals, there is nothing conservatives can add to the conversation.

Extremism might still sound like a strong word, but let me continue. Often with these liberal perspectives’ strong (and often admirable) push for social justice, they preach the idea of “tolerance”. Tolerance sounds nice, but the kind of tolerance we see from many of these folks is not tolerance at all. Instead of agreeing to disagree and pursuing dialogue and truth, this new tolerance says that if you don’t agree with my ideas or convictions, you must be a bigot and a hater. Even if your views are based in what you believe to be fact, and even if they are based on evidence. Lately, there have even been violent riots to protest speeches of conservative speakers.

The Jordan Peterson Example

Take for example the recent news coverage and debates with Dr. Jordan Peterson at the University of Toronto. Dr. Peterson, though appealing to things like biology, political sciences and history, and even recent social patterns in other countries, is dismissed as a bigot and someone who should essentially be ridiculed and punished by the University of Toronto because of his views on Bill-16 and the gender pronoun legislation. There is no attempt to truly understand him, no desire to hear out his heart (which, by the way, is to keep us from actually becoming a Marxist nation, something many of us would believe to be evil), and, well… definitely no attempt at tolerance. This is a ruining of free speech, and it comes in the guise of the new tolerance. A perspective that is based on science and thoughtful examination of the facts is suddenly now hate speech, and many a far leftist is crying for supposed justice.

Now I don’t necessarily agree with Peterson and all of his views or how he is expressing them. It’s not wrong to disagree with the guy, or even call into question his tact in discussing such issues (though I’ve never heard the man talk in person). But to not even discuss with him? To not care enough about the truth to reason with him, logically and coherently? To throw accusatory words around blindly? Are we mere children? If this weren’t enough, some have even insisted on legal action against the man! Do we not see the ridiculousness?

We only need to browse YouTube and even mainstream news in general these days to see yet more of the same liberal extremism happening. They throw around baseless terms, protest anything pro-conservative (even violently) and forget the tolerance that they all preach. It is more and more a very real problem, and it betrays deep cultural issues.

Honest Conversation, Honest Criticism

Let’s be straight here. If your worldview or perspective on any given issue is not logically arguable (or you yourself are incapable of making a good case) and you lower yourself to ad hominem (personal) attacks, then you are acting like a child and should instead be rethinking your perspective. You need to be open to the idea that you might be wrong, as any honest person (especially an academic!) should be. We as a society need to grow up, try to be nuanced in our thinking and argumentation, and always be open to correction if we hope to truly make progress.

And this brings me full circle. Donald Trump won the 2016 Presidential election in the United States of America. He’s doing a lot of the things many didn’t agree with but that he promised – and that got him voted in in part. Instead of throwing words like “racism”, “misogyny” or “xenophobia” around and condemning those who disagree with us, let’s consider that there are some real issues that need to be talked about, people that need to be understood (before you make yourself so), and ways that you are wrong and need to be corrected (whatever your views are).

And while we’re at it, let’s try to practice some optimism.

Keep thinking, even with all this stuff appealing to your emotions going around!

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