Editorial: There’s plenty of free speech, but where’s the listening?
Perhaps we should blame the Internet. Americans began using it in large numbers in the mid-1990s, and that’s about the time that our political discourse took a turn toward the sewer, where it has resided ever since.
It made it easy for us to connect with like-minded individuals, and helped us to shut out those who disagree with us.
Liberals at the University of California-Berkeley won’t allow Ann Coulter, or Milo Yiannopoulos to speak. Watch a televised political debate or listen to the pundits filling time on one of the cable channels and you’ll see there is no debate taking place, just an endless parade of focus-group tested talking points.
Bills in our state legislatures and in Congress are being passed only along party lines, dismissing anything the other side says or argues.
We don’t have a freedom of speech problem, Ann Coulter is still able to get her message out on television, radio, books, etc.
What we have are problems with everything that comes with freedom of speech: The ability to listen, to comprehend, to consider. Or just the fun of engaging in a good debate with an intellectual, allowing him to poke holes in your argument as you desperately search out the holes in his.
We don’t have that anymore in America. Our citizens dismiss truth and facts because they don’t agree with their personal philosophy. They believe things that have no basis in truth whatsoever, simply because it does agree with their personal philosophy.
It doesn’t matter if you’re liberal or conservative, both sides are equally to blame.
Keeping conservatives off college campuses is wrong. Doubting the patriotism of someone just because they hold different beliefs than yours is offensive, and arrogant.
What we need is more compassion, more empathy, more listening and above all, more humility. None here on Earth knows all the answers. Isolating ourselves so that the only views we hear, from family, friends, the TV shows we watch, the radio station we listen to, the books and newspapers we read, is harmful to our nation and our personal growth.
We need to hear all sides of an issue. We need to recognize the merit of an argument even if we disagree with the conclusion. We should all seek out views that differ from our own, confident that what we believe can hold up to the challenge.
But at the same time we should truly listen, trying to learn something from the exchange.
For more than two decades we have failed at that, America. And our inability to not only recognize the value of giving others the freedom of speech, but to also insist that we listen and try to understand is the only way that we will grow.
That is a message that should be spread around the Internet.