With all the talk about “safe spaces” on college campuses these days, what seems to be lost is the basic fact that “safe spaces” – or spaces where certain speech is curtailed – only exists in authoritarian nations.
Think about that. There are college students all over America demanding that the conditions be made on campus that would emulate college kids in a country with an authoritarian regime.
It’s stunning, actually. Universities, long thought to be the bastion of free speech and independent thinking, now need to coddle folks who might be offended by certain speech.
Now before I say anything else, let me be clear. There is speech that is tremendously offensive! There is also speech that is narrow-minded and even bigoted. But no safe zone in the world will ever change that because narrow-minded and bigoted people will always exist. There’s no way to stop individuals who have weird views from spouting them off – unless you live under an authoritarian regime. Is that what we want?
Heck, even the Declaration of Independence was offensive to everyone on the other side of the Atlantic.
Limiting speech is never the way to stop the spread of little mindedness. It’s the very essence of open and free speech that is needed to set us apart from the countries who quell and squash any small amount of freedom which might come from someone’s lips. As I wrote recently, we need more speech, not less. The way to combat bad speech is countering it with good speech. It’s quite simple, actually.
But in our modern world, we try to make everything more complicated and so we flap our heads back and forth complaining about the speech coming out of another’s mouth while we could be taking our time to model what appropriate and ethical speech is all about.
I lived for ten years under an authoritative regime. I know what it’s like not to have a first amendment which guarantees everyone’s rights. I guarantee you that this is not what those university students want, and if it is, then they are no better than the Romanias, Cubas, Vietnams, Polands, Cambodias who suffered extensively under a permanent gag order over their free mouths.
We need to protect our right of free speech with every fiber of our being or one day we might find ourselves in a very different country.