Op-Ed: Young Liberals, Open Ears to Different Views

Photo illustration purchased from BigStock.com.

As a strong supporter of the First Amendment, it’s crucial that both sides of the political spectrum have a voice.

I consider myself a progressive, and I usually agree with the Democratic agenda. I am indeed a registered Democrat.

But since Donald Trump assumed office, when it comes to being open-minded, many young liberals have acted aggressively rather than reasonably.

Last March, for example, protests erupted at Middlebury College in Vermont when controversial speaker Charles Murray, known for his widely discredited theories on race and IQ, was scheduled to speak about class divide. The protestors grew unruly, making it impossible to listen to any of the people on stage.

The event was moved to a private room, where it was live streamed, but when it ended and political science professor Allison Stanger, who moderated the event, approached her car, she suffered injuries and a concussion from protestors.

“For those of you who marched in Washington the day after the inauguration, imagine being in a crowd like that, only being surrounded by hatred rather than love. I feared for my life,” Stanger wrote in a Facebook post.

Certainly, students have a right to protest, but it’s a whole different story when the people being protested against are put in physical danger. Unfortunately, the incident at Middlebury College isn’t an isolated incident, as CBS News reported last year for its story, A War of Words on College Campuses.

As another example, take University of Toronto psychology professor Jordan Peterson, who in April appeared on Real Time with Bill Maher. To kick-off the segment, the host cues a video clip that went viral earlier in the year.

The reporter asks, “Why should your freedom of speech trump a transgender person’s right not to be offended?”

After a moment to think, Peterson responded, “Because in order to be able to think, you have to risk being offensive. I mean, look at the conversation we’re having right now. You’re certainly willing to risk offending me in the pursuit of truth. Why should you have the right to do that? It’s been rather uncomfortable.”

It’s an unfortunate generalization that conservatives are bigoted and prejudiced. These assumptions create a deep divide between our two dominant political parties—which has only deepened since the 2016 election. In the case of Murray, refusing to allow him to be heard only reinforced the notion that more and more, young liberals embrace the idea of free speech, but not when it might be offensive or politically charged. 

All sides should value common decency.

Listening and debate are essential to healing and even uniting our country. People on both ends of the spectrum must make an effort. In the largely Democratic state of Massachusetts, we must try to hear through the noise, rather than disregarding all Republican viewpoints by calling conservatives racist, bigoted, xenophobic, and insensitive—even as some undoubtedly are. 

Name-calling and partisan squabbling only creates a bigger divide. Progress is possible, even in a state as liberal as Massachusetts. After all, we just reelected a Republican governor, who has the highest approval rating of any governor in the country. 

Here, we claim to be an extremely accepting and understanding community. When community members make an insensitive or offensive comment, we should speak out and take action—but we should also remain open to different ideas, which don’t always have to equate with offense or wrongdoing.

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