The latest trend among our fellow college students has been the feverish demand for a new kind of freedom: the freedom from “triggers” and “offense”. The classroom has become so heated that it's threatening our professors!
But this bloated “right to not be offended” has been used to gloss over legitimately unsettled questions. Political correctness is a way of silencing debate and easily wining an argument without having to use either reason or philosophy. Now, instead of engaging in edifying discussions, we aim to trigger emotional, unreflective responses so that we can dismiss opposing views as “offensive.” Anyone with sincere religious objections to gay marriage is a “hateful bigot.” If you oppose abortion, you're “anti-woman.”
While philosophy uses logic and reason in a sincere and honest pursuit of the truth, ideology claims that subjective opinions have all the answers. Ideology absolves us of the responsibility to think independently and protects us from anything that tests or conflicts with our emotions.
Now, even ideas, no matter how relevant or reasonable, can be “offensive” because they do not agree with our feelings on a subject. It always hurts on some emotional level when someone disagrees with you, but now we discount the contrarian because he violates our emotional primacy. Disagreement is inevitable and even healthy in the pursuit of truth! If you have no doubt that everything you believe is absolutely true, it's easy to dismiss differing beliefs as “close-minded” or “out-of-touch.”
But all this is foreign to our American political tradition. Our nation was founded by men who escaped tyranny and sought to build a country where all people were free to express their beliefs, regardless of the popular views of the day. The founding would not have been possible without the dialogue of opposing viewpoints that coalesced to sign the Declaration of Independence and ratify the Constitution.
The Constitutional right of freedom of speech protects the expression of political beliefs and guarantees that you will run into contrary views that are sure to offend you. Rather than stifle debate that challenges ideology and conflicts with our emotions, let's embrace our political heritage and engage in reasoned, philosophical dialogue with different belief sets. We must return to thinking for ourselves.