Free Speech on the College Campus

Free Speech on the College Campus

Photo by: Kat Jayne

I'm prompted to write this week by the recent kerfuffles surrounding Professors Jordan B. Peterson (University of Toronto), and Bret Weinstein (Evergreen State College). I'm also informed by Professor Yuval N. Harari's Sapiens: A Brief History of Human Kind.

Professor Harari suggests that there is a continuum between religion and ideology, suggesting that either are just a set of shared myths. We build our societies and states around certain shared sets of ideas.

In our American case, our shared beliefs—political at least—are enshrined in our constitution. Informing this is a certain Christian tradition, and the moral and ethical code that it carries with it. I'm reminded of Franklin's emphasis on thrift and industry and respect, a rather simple elegance informing our dignity.

The part relevant to this discussion is the First Amendment:

Amendment 1 - Freedom of Religion, Press, Expression

Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.

Assuming Professor Harari's premise is correct, we have made a religion of our freedom to embrace our own beliefs, and share our own thoughts. As I see it, this amendment was written to concretize our creed "that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness."

So why does this show up here? It seems some of us have forgotten our roots. The people screaming against Professors Weinstein and Peterson are demanding that their positions be “respected,” but wish to do that by creating and enforcing codes and thoughts and practices directly abridging the freedom of speech of the next person.

In Professor Peterson's case, it is worse. Those who claim to be the victims of Peterson's speech have the ear of Prime Minister Trudeau. For Professor Peterson, there is a real threat that his incautious choice of words will have criminal consequences. There's a fair argument to be made that we are not far behind, regardless of our constitutional protections.

Those protesting professors Peterson and Weinstein think that we ought to protect them from being offended, that we should be forced to respect what they believe, but that's simply not how our system operates.

It's time we take a stand. You, snowflake, are welcome to advocate all you want to be called ze or for a white-free day on your campus. What you are not welcome to do is command that I call you ze, or not show up because I am too white for your political purposes.

You may argue for a different world order, but that's not what the rest of us signed on for.

July 4, 2017

So I was listening to a discussion on bloomberg.com about Mayor DeBlasio's plan to shut Rikers Prison.

You all know I come from the right. As you can imagine, Mayor DiBlasio does not get high ratings in my circles. But in this case, I agree with him.

It took me a minute to notice it, but my gut reaction is to dismiss anything out of his mouth or office as a symptom of the sickness of the left. And I do the same with a lot of the mouthpieces of the left. And then I asked myself does this attitude really add anything to the marketplace of ideas?

Yes, I think some people are wrong—especially in their methods—most of the time. But I also believe, at least at some level, that most politicians really do—or at least one time did—have a commitment to create a better world.

And I also know that the best negotiators rarely say no. If you want to keep the conversation going, you are much better with a “Yes, but…”

And when we are talking politics, or bandying about ideas in this marketplace, it seems to me we should always look at what we have in common first.

“I absolutely agree that we should all be able share our ideas, but does that mean I have to agree?…”

“Yes, I also care for every human life, and I agree that people use guns to kill other people, but maybe the constitution guarantees our right for a greater purpose.…”

“I agree that people should have access to health care, but maybe this is an issue best left to the states.…”

“We both want to educate and prepare our kids for the future. Let's take a look at what really has been working.…”

So my invitation to you this holiday is to exercise your independence. Open your mouth. Share what you think. But first, listen. Listen for what you have in common. It's often easy to see our differences. But we've got a lot in common too. And maybe we can learn something that will help carry us all forward, together.

Let's celebrate our Freedoms by using them. Let's talk.

The Football Diamond

The Football Diamond

You might not know that I have a lot of trouble coming up with material to write here. I wonder how my few words will make a difference for the American People. It's not that I don't make a difference. I help thousands of people have better relationships, with girlfriends, parents, kids, in-laws, co-workers. I help them have better lives, whether it's around romantic relationships, jobs, or building relationships for business. Somehow that's really easy.

But it's one thing to coach a player, another the team, and another altogether when you are running the league. And unlike the Major League, where the schedule is set and the teams show up, government, for the most part, can only set up the field.

Full story »

Memorial Day 2017

I'm almost done reading Mr. Tuvia Tenenbom's rather depressing book The Lies They Tell. (Welcome to the real America,
a place you call home but don't yet know!
) One of his themes is that Americans are afraid.

And it's not that we are afraid of the rest of the world. We are afraid of ourselves. In the land that celebrates free speech, people are afraid to speak their mind, we don't want to tell you who we voted for, or what we really think for fear of how it will look.

Full story »

Angry Losers

This week, I am inspired to write by Pat Condell, and his video Hello Angry Losers. His point is that the left seems quite ready to celebrate the democratic process when it wins, and equally ready to angrily dismiss it when it loses, to wit branding those who supported the Brexit as racist little Englanders, as idiots who voted against their own interests.

In the US, this phenomenon shows up with those seeking to Impeach Donald Trump Now, a website registered within days of President Trump's election. This movement is sponsored by such organizations as Free Speech for People.org.

I find it incredible that those who seemingly celebrate free speech seem so against it when the speech goes against their own beliefs, in this case challenged by the beliefs of Trump supporters, and their speech in selecting him.

And it may be that many of Trump people are low-information voters, who voted more on emotion than knowledge. This didn't seem to bother anyone when President Obama was elected. So why should it now?

President Trump speaks for a segment of our country that simply does not believe America is living into its potential. Rather than examining and seeking to ameliorate the concerns of the people Mr. Trump speaks for, certain elements paint their concerns as trivial. For these elements, the people of Impeach Trump Now, this is flyover country. These are the people who cling to their guns and religion, to borrow a phrase.

Maybe it is that Trump's people had not been heard. Now it's their turn to speak. And rather than show themselves as true liberals, people who understand that others may think differently, that others may have valid concerns that do not echo their own, the people at Free Speech for People enter new echo chambers to convince themselves that they are right as they try to bring down the man who just happens to speak in a different voice.

They don't need to celebrate Trump, but if, instead of being Angry Losers, they chose to celebrate our process, and use our vast resources to make a difference for all Americans - and not by reeducating them in “correct thinking” - we'd all be in a better place.