*The YU Observer has verified that the anonymous writer is a current YU undergraduate student.
“Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.”
The first amendment of our constitution, over two hundred years after its creation, is coming under attack. To me, it seems that “hate speech” has become the latest trend, with today’s generation believing that people do not have the right to express themselves freely. On college campuses, it has become the norm to be made to follow highly restrictive speech codes. “Cancel culture” is rampant, and speakers who students do not wish to speak on their campuses are often disinvited. The idea that everyone deserves the right to be intellectually and idealistically unchallenged is disturbing, yet this is the current predicament of our country.
There is a misconstrued belief that people should not be allowed to say things that have the potential to offend others. Many of the holders of this belief claim that this is what is destroying our society, that this notion of free speech is tearing us apart. These proponents for limitation say that if the government were to place more restrictions on our speech, we would finally be able to unify.
This censorship sounds a lot like communism to me, but I digress.
Isn’t college a place where we should feel safe to speak our minds? To hold unpopular opinions? To be able to peacefully coexist with those who disagree with us, and not quash them into silence?
Sadly, it seems that we have become akin to communists, declaring authority over others’ right to express what they choose. Those of us with differing opinions are left in the dust, wondering if we even deserve validity. College campuses are gaining a one-track mind, which is the exact opposite of what we are here to accomplish. We’re here to learn how to think, not what to think.
“Safe spaces” on college campuses, blurring the lines between offense and harm, are excellent examples of this intellectual repression. Students are being taught to constantly refer to “authority” for all of their information, from professors to social media. These acclaimed “authorities” become the sources for all things political and moral, opinion and fact (the latter of which is not often differentiated). Critical thinking skills have been torn away from our generation, and have students declaring that it is better to feel safe than to challenge themselves with ideas that don’t align with what makes them feel good.
I have noticed that many people, under the guise of “let’s have conversations!” are actually quite intolerant of differing views. Against any who disagree, these people retreat into identity politics, crying racism, white privilege, mansplaining, and womansplaining, to name a few. If I am pro-life, I am allegedly anti women’s rights. If I don’t support the “Black Lives Matter” organization, I am allegedly racist. If I don’t believe that, with the proper variables taken into account, there is an existing significant gender wage gap, I am allegedly misogynistic.
To claim that one does not have the right to express what they choose, and to cry an undefined “hate speech” just because one’s opinion has the potential to make another feel bad, goes beyond the first amendment, and it goes beyond the Constitution. It penetrates our very humanity. We exist not to blindly nod and cheer for words that sound nice. We exist not to keep each other sheltered, or to keep another’s political correctness in check. We exist to push intellectual boundaries, and this cannot happen if we aren’t comfortable with challenging narratives.
As Americans, we have and should treasure our right to freedom of expression. This freedom was fought for by our founding fathers, and several other countries don’t even possess our extent of this privilege. We have never received, nor should we strive for, the right to not be offended. I would never encourage, of course, the intent to offend, or the intent to hurt others. I only maintain that there is a difference between stating facts (and opinions based on those facts), and explicit, or even implicit, malice. To address the latter case, though, we can all agree that intentionally insulting, disrespecting, and offending another is rude and likely a sign of poor character. However, in most cases, this is still protected under the Constitution, and under our free society. We should not be fighting to change that. In its use as a tool to censor, political correctness seems to have the potential to destroy America as we know it, and we must fight it.
Today, I challenge you, to truly challenge yourself. Do you know exactly what it is you’re fighting for? Do you know who it is you’re supporting? Are you investigating what these platforms that sound so innocent, so harmless, are advocating? Are you pushing yourself to ask questions, to learn what is actually happening around us? And, arguably more importantly, what isn’t?
If not, it’s time to find out. Don’t allow society and the mainstream media, entrenched in their own manipulation, to control what you say, what you think, what you ask. It’s time to wake up, and get a little intellectually uncomfortable.