It’s easy to be worried about the state of free speech in America at present. The rage exhibited online and at protests, particularly by Antifa in the Pacific Northwest, is enough to turn the stomach of those who believe speech is sacrosanct and a necessary component of freedom.
But take heart: some things have happened of late (offline, of course) that are little beacons of light that perhaps this grand experiment of protecting speech that defines this country and sets us apart is still alive and well.
To begin, the display by the Washington Nationals baseball team at the White House was a most welcome display of choice. Some players spoke their minds by choosing not to attend. Other showed their support for a President that, in many instances, has proved the ruination of reputations and, in extreme cases, careers. God bless the ballplayers for showing courage in their convictions. It was a great moment and one I hope the kids watched. That’s how respectful disagreement is done.
And it’s a necessary lesson, as the documentary “No Safe Spaces” makes fundamentally clear. It follows the attacks on free speech on university and college campuses in the U.S. and in Canada. What’s been going on with young people is detrimentally underreported.
The rage that American youth exhibit in places where free speech has always been the most cherished is a disturbing trend that, as one professor in the film points out, will ultimately seep out into all areas of our culture as these kids graduate and take jobs (particularly, and most frighteningly, in the tech sector).
But it doesn’t happen in a vacuum. The question, after viewing the film, that I think really needs to be answered — and is only just now starting to be examined seriously — is why? What has happened that has led to the new youthful rage and need for bubble-wrapped safe spaces?
The answer, it seems to me, is simple: the adults, through parenting, schools, leadership styles on campus, have allowed it. They have so blurred the lines between adult and child, novice and professional, youthful exuberance and wizened experience, that the kids are running the show. And the adults are behaving as if they’re too weak to stop the runaway train.
But in all of that, there are moments in the film — the popularity of stars Dennis Prager and Adam Carolla for example — that serve as reminders that not everyone’s on board with the inmates running the asylum.
We should hold on to that. And be better leaders for the next generation so they don’t feel so fragile and powerless to the degree that the only way they know how to feel strong is to silence anyone who disagrees.