You probably heard about the men who recently intervened between a man and two women he was verbally “racially harassing” (one of the women was black, the other was wearing a hijab). Three men intervened and two ended up being killed. The other was injured.
In response, Portland’s Mayor Ted Wheeler has been addressing free speech on his Facebook page. He addressed the people behind two unrelated upcoming events (Trump Free Speech Rally and March Against Sharia):
I am appealing to the organizers of the alt-right demonstrations to CANCEL the events they have scheduled . . . I urge them to ask their supporters to stay away from Portland. There is never a place for bigotry or hatred in our community, and especially not now.
Now hopefully any reasonable person would agree that harassment, murder, bigotry, racism, and hatred are all terrible things. There’s no place for those anywhere. I have no idea what the purpose of those two events is, or if they plan to be peaceful. A more recent posting in reference to the event says:
We need to reckon with the fact that racist attitudes lead to racist words, and that racist words lead to violence. And we need to decide what we’re going to do about it.
What are we going to do about it? There’s this growing idea that to prevent violence, we have to prevent people from holding and expressing certain ideas and attitudes. Now, we can agree that certain things are always wrong and terrible to even think.
But what do we do when the thought police go after people with opposing views who are reasonable and not murderers? When we get to ideas and attitudes, who gets to decide which ones we’re allowed to have?
In comment sections, articles, and everywhere on social media, I see people saying it’s “hate speech” to believe in traditional marriage or be against abortion. To some, it’s not just a personal or religious belief. Those are beliefs that personally offend other people, and they want to get rid of that uncomfortable reality by getting rid of your idea.
I think it says a lot about us when we’ve become so sensitive to differing viewpoints that we want to remove those people from our communities instead of attempting to live in peaceful disagreement.
This is not about murder and racism and violent, terrible crimes. This is about the thought police trying to appease people who disagree by silencing the people they disagree with.
I’d like to ask such individuals when we started thinking the whole world was our safe space.
Because it’s not.
When we walk out the doors or connect to the internet or have contact with another human being, we are going to encounter people who think differently than us. Of course we all think some people hold ridiculous opinions and beliefs. I’m Catholic, so I think people who are Atheist are wrong about God. I think people who are pro-choice are wrong about abortion. I think people against the right to bear arms are wrong about gun control. I think Scientology is creepy and that some animal rights activists need to chill.
But you know what?
Here in America, we are free to express and live out our beliefs, no matter how wrong we may be (as long as it doesn’t hurt people). None of us are entitled to lives without having our ideas questioned or opposed.
If you are after an eternal safe space, I’d recommend never getting on the internet or leaving your home, because there probably isn’t anyone you agree with 100%. We can’t deny that and try to live in a bubble by ostracizing people we think are wrong or ruining their livelihood.
We can disagree. We should shut crime down. But free speech is something I hold dear as an American, and infringement on that has got to go. If my ideas bother you, great. I’m glad that you have an idea too. Let’s talk and see if we can figure out what’s right. Or if it doesn’t matter. Ideas exist to be debated and researched and challenged and embraced. We can’t do that if we ignore or purposefully stifle ideas different than our own.