TRAVEL HERE: TRUTH UNDER SIEGE
Today is not my usual day to blog and I’m actually supposed to be writing a newsletter for my favorite ministry, but I just had to say something. I’m a writer, so words matter to me. If you are an American, Liberty should matter to you.
The Outrageous Nature of Outrage
Steve Martin was recently smacked down in the Twitter world for a nostalgic tribute to Carrie Fisher. Some troll came along and chose to be outraged at his perfectly lovely sentiment. He wasn’t writing a biography, just sharing an impression. I’m thinking Ms. Fisher would have been flattered to be remembered so fondly by such a giant in the industry.
Nothing Steve Martin said could in any way tarnish the memory of Carrie Fisher, but for the benefit of their own sense of outrage, someone has forever added an asterisk to Steve Martin’s thoughts about an actress he admired – and a bunch of other trolls piled on. I doubt Mr. Martin has a lot of time to fret over it, as he moves gracefully from success to success; but he is human and for awhile, when anyone mentions Carrie Fisher, he’ll remember the spiteful words. So will we.
The Facts Are Often Unrelated to the Truth
I giggled at much of the fact-checking during the most recent political process. Whether something could be counted as fact depended solely on what flavor of spin you preferred. My favorite sound bite from the whole campaign suggested we should take the President-Elect seriously rather than literally. To build on that suggestion, I believe we should all work at considering the words of others with an ear to understand, rather than a heart to criticize. Would it kill folks to give others the benefit of the doubt, instead of seizing upon every opportunity to be offended, outraged or otherwise negatively impacted?
I heard recently of a college professor who was fired, because of our growing predilection for being negatively impacted by the words of others. In trying to illustrate a point, he used his own opinion about abortion as an example. He recognized it was lawful, but he was personally opposed to it. A student immediately went to some college official and claimed the statement had caused her to “not feel safe” in the classroom. I cannot express strongly enough my disdain for that student’s actions, but I am even more horrified at the institution for their response to her tattling.
The Ethereal Nature of Feelings
Where is someone supposed to go this day and time, if they want to learn to think rationally and logically, if not a college classroom? There’s no way to impart every morsel of information a person will ever need into a four-year degree plan. In the best of cases, a student can only be taught to research a subject and evaluate the information available. This is, in and of itself, a valuable gift! If instead, all students want is a piece of paper to list on their resume, without ever having to go through the discomfort of thinking, then why bother. Let’s just have a store where mommy and daddy can go buy a diploma. It appears that’s the direction our institutions of higher learning should head, if this is how they are going to operate.
Obviously this student has been taught to measure the words of others by her own feelings and the university is reinforcing that dangerous concept. You can’t change the truth because it makes you uncomfortable. The student might feel safer now, but she has cost an honest man his livelihood. What’s more, feelings often change. Who knows what will make her or someone else feel “not safe” tomorrow.
Thank You Dr. Kim
During my first attempt at college I took a political science course under a professor named Dr. Kim. On the first day he informed us there was no God and if we were brave enough to discuss that fact, we would be allowed to continue and complete the course. Half of the class dropped out. I certainly didn’t agree with Dr. Kim, but I was curious to see how things would go. BTW, I didn’t feel threatened or unsafe in any way.
The remaining students fell into three categories: those who enthusiastically supported Dr. Kim’s assertion, those who vocally opposed it and a smattering of folks like me, who were primarily curious. Along the way, most of the remaining students who chose to vocally oppose Dr. Kim, eventually dropped of the class, joining those who had not made it to the second day. The earnestness of an argument was not enough to overcome the brilliance of Dr. Kim’s logic.
I often found myself supporting the arguments of the opposition. I didn’t agree with their opinion about the existence of God, because I understood it was a matter of faith, but I could appreciate the logic of what they said. I also got very good at picking out weaknesses in the arguments of my fellow Believers. My faith grew, even as God’s very existence was being disproved. Since a good portion of our grade was based on class participation, I wasn’t allowed to sit in silence. I had to learn how and when to speak. It was good training.
By the end of the class there were only a handful of us left. Dr. Kim finally got around to pointing out what I had suspected all along. His class was an exercise in learning how to think. Dr. Kim admitted proving or disproving the existence of God didn’t affect in any way whether God actually existed or not. The students clamored to know whether or not Dr. Kim actually believed in God. His eyes twinkled as he refused to admit his opinion. I chose to believe he believed in God – maybe more than those of us who admitted we did.
The Erosion of Truth
While I was brave enough to finish Dr. Kim’s class, wise enough to make a good grade and devout enough to leave the class with my faith intact, I was not mature enough to finish my degree plan at that time. However, I returned to school when I was much older and much wiser. I was sad to discover many of my new professors had abandoned the practice of teaching us how to think and were more interested in teaching us what to think. This was not universally so, but there were many who adopted that lesson plan.
The saddest example was a poetry professor. On the first day of class the professor warned a student they should probably drop the class, if they were taking it to learn to write worship and praise poems. I was embarrassed for the student, who turned twenty shades of red, but I wanted my piece of paper and I’d already realized if it was going to be the flavor of degree I wanted, then I needed to overlook a few things from my liberal professors.
The professor’s warning demonstrated her own shortcomings more than she realized. Besides, as the oldest person in the room, I felt I needed to set a good example of tolerance. I also thought I might be able to do more good for God in the classroom, than I would by demonstrating my outrage with a drop slip.
I’m happy to admit I learned a lot in the class and it wasn’t the last I took from the professor. In fact, we sort of became friends. Not lifelong buddies, but more than acquaintances. She spent a lot of time trying to get me to see myself from her Liberal viewpoint and in turn, I gave her the benefit of my actual life experiences. There’s a lot of things she didn’t know about religion (the difference in the terms “Jew” and “Hebrew”), the history of the American language (that Afro-American was once a politically-correct term) and that to use racially-coded language, one would first have to be aware of the code (which is apparently a closely held secret of the Left). Thanks to Dr. Kim’s training, I was able to adequately express my appreciation of her opinions, without offending her with my opinions – as long as I didn’t dare voice them in the classroom.
Long Live Liberty – and May Real Tolerance Win Out
Were I to base what I believed on the popularity of my opinions, I’d be a very different person. I seem to hold a lot of opinions which differ with popular culture – kind of like Galileo. In time I may be proven wrong, but so far, no one has proven me wrong enough to change me. I know, even if they don’t, that my opinion and theirs together are unable to change the truth – no matter what that may be – so I’ll keep looking for Truth. This wouldn’t seem so risky if political correctness were more of a two-way street, but I seem to be on the wrong side of that particular avenue.
The world has gotten pretty scary. We seem to have regressed to the days before the legendary King Arthur, where Might proved Right. If someone disagrees with you, then bomb them, run them over with a truck, shoot them, knife them, stage a protest against them, boycott them…or berate them on social media. These all seem of the same cloth to me.
A student should feel safe in the classroom, but that assurance should arise from the strength of their own convictions, not because the classroom has been swept clean of any opinion differing with their own. And Steve Martin should be able to say lovely things about Carrie Fisher without ridicule and abuse. At least, that’s my opinion.