A terrible swath of collateral damage has been done to this nation by contemporary progressive politics. Where once, people were encouraged to avoid topics like religion and politics in mixed company, on the grounds that this might inflame tensions, we have dropped the pretense of “mixed company” entirely. In today’s political world, there are the “correct” opinions… and there are the “wrong” opinions (held by anyone who is not progressive). Hold the wrong opinions and you are no longer presumed to have a right to those views; you are a bad person. Bad people deserve to feel bad about being bad, you see, so any amount of abuse you heap on them is justified and even required.
This is the rationalization used by people who walk through the world demanding never to be offended. Progressives don’t just believe themselves and their opinions correct by default; they believe they are entitled to positions of authority. Any dissent, any politically incorrect opinion, any challenge to their authority is out of bounds. If they lose an election, it isn’t that they lost; it’s that there’s something wrong with the system. If they see or overhear an opinion they don’t like, even accidentally, it isn’t that multiple opinions exist; it is that hatemongers are being platformed and must be stopped.
I’ll use myself as an example. For twenty years I had a friend. We didn’t agree on all things political, but that never troubled me. I’ve always believed that adult friendships are based on the ability to walk away from the other person thinking, “Well, that guy’s wrong,” without lying awake at night fretting over it. If you are secure in your opinions, if you understand what you believe, if your philosophy is consistent, then it doesn’t bother you when people are wrong. You may be amused by them; you may disapprove; you may even consider them misguided. You understand, however, that people don’t always agree, and that to be tolerant of a diverse and multicultural society is to understand you can’t agree with anyone.
My friend drifted farther left. At some point, I realized he was no longer speaking to me, and would brush me off when I tried to have a conversation with him. Finally, I managed to get him to explain the problem: I was treating him with disrespect. My crime? I had my own political opinions and expressed them.
Every time I shared a political opinion with which he disagreed, he explained, this was a personal attack on him. This was the end of our friendship, a friendship that spanned two decades, a friendship with someone I considered as close as a brother. I mourned his loss the way I would mourn the death of someone I’d known — and respected — for 20 years.
I’ve never understood why some people can’t be friends with others who disagree. I’ve never once been bothered by disagreeing, or even arguing with, someone I considered a friend. I find those conversations interesting and even stimulating. They give us a chance to hone our arguments, to refine and thoroughly understand our philosophies. They should not and cannot be threatening… IF we are secure in what we believe.
If, on the other hand, your belief system is fragile — if you aren’t entirely comfortable with it, or don’t know how to justify it with strong, logical arguments — then you will indeed consider anyone who disagrees your enemy. You will become hostile to them. You will resent them. And it won’t belong before you start encouraging everyone who agrees with you, not merely to shun and criticize and even to mistreat the dissenters… but even to attack them physically. This is our world now. It is a world where you take your life in your hands if you walk down a public street wearing a MAGA hat.
These people are now encouraging their fellow progressives to go home at Thanksgiving and Christmas and browbeat their relatives with political talking points. Failing that, the true believers are encouraged to shun their own family members (and yes, their friends), to cut from their lives anyone who has the audacity to hold Republican, conservative, or libertarian political views. The same people who shriek that they must never see an opinion with which they disagree — lest they feel offended — feel no compunction about offending, maligning, mischaracterizing, and mistreating anyone who does not share their views.
As you go about your life, as you express your opinions, as you engage in politics, you must therefore remember one thing: Stop worrying about offending people who don’t care about offending you. They will always be offended, so you can’t prevent it. They will never care about whether they hurt YOUR feelings, so you needn’t consider theirs. This the sad reality of contemporary politics in America. It is decidedly double edged… yet bizarrely one-sided.
The friendship I lost was collateral damage in an ideological war — a war started by the Left and waged on those who happen to be on the Right. The Right acknowledges that both sides exist and that members of both sides have the right to free speech. The Left acknowledges only its own, while marginalizing, demonizing, and vilifying those on the Right. This double standard is untenable. This viewpoint discrimination is corrosive.
This reality is sad, but it is real all the same.