One of the more slippery slopes in intellectual discourse and politics over the years has been the slow but inexorable slide from demands for tolerance to demands for affirmation. By this I mean that it is no longer enough, for those on the Left, that you allow them to “live their lives” and “be who they are” because it “does not affect you.” No, now you must actively agree with and support them; you must literally bend the knee to their causes. If you do not, you will be punished — sometimes with social censure, sometimes with loss of your job or position, and sometimes with harassment and physical assault.
The latest salvo in this war to compel your speech and police your thought is the slogan, “Silence equals violence.” If you do not agree with Black Lives Matter, you are a racist. It isn’t enough for you to live your life, hurt no one, and treat no one with prejudice. No, if you won’t support them directly, you are as guilty of racism as a jackbooted neo-Nazi. They will therefore take action against you accordingly.
For some time now, the Left has sought to redefine speech as violence. Say words they don’t agree with, and they will accuse you of making them feel “unsafe.” Just what makes them feel “unsafe” is never specified. It doesn’t matter if you’ve taken no action against them. It doesn’t matter if you’ve never spoken a word to them. There mere presence in their minds of the knowledge that you disagree with them, that you hold an opinion of which they disapprove, is enough for them to imagine violence on your part.
Because they imagine violence, they feel “unsafe.” You have no control over their feelings and there is no proof of any word or deed on your part that could or would impart harm to them, but that does not matter. In the world of the Left, you are guilty of thoughtcrime until proven innocent.
If you’re having trouble understanding what I mean, let me give you an example from my own life. I once had a job in an office. I removed from my pocket a common pocketknife, which I used to open the plastic strap on a box of paper. I then put that paper in the copy machine. I was not the only person in the office with a pocketknife, nor were there any rules in the employee handbook forbidding pocketknives.
Some time later, my manager came to me. She was a good sort, and apologized for not mentioning it to me the first time a coworker complained. The same coworker, she said — whose identity I was never allowed to know — had seen me open my pocketknife twice now to free the reams of paper. That employee felt “unsafe” as a result.
I had taken no action against her; I had spoken no words to her; I had never treated here with anything but professionalism. Yet I was guilty of the crime of making her “unsafe,” a crime of which I was guilty until I proved myself innocent.
The same would have been true had I worn a Trump hat into the office today. The same complaint would have been made. The same allegation that I was making a coworker feel “unsafe” would have been lodged. In the eyes of a leftist, the fact that you possess even the unthreatened, unmentioned potential to oppose them or to harm them is synonymous with doing so.
That is why they hate guns in the hands of right-wingers. That is also why they hate right-wing opinions in the minds of right-wingers. If you harbor anything, tangible or intangible, of which they do not approve, you are guilty until proven innocent.
The Catch-22 here is that when it comes to thought crimes, you can never be proven innocent. If you apologize, you are admitting guilt. If you refuse to apologize, you are also admitting guilt. In the eyes of a leftist, you are always guilty, because you are NOT a leftist, and that is a crime by their definition.
All Leftist crimes have only one punishment: cancellation. That cancellation may come in the form of losing your job and livelihood, but they are just as happy to blind you permanently with lasers, beat you in the street, set your home or business on fire, or (as has been the case relatively recently) hold you hostage in your vehicle under threat of gun violence.
This is the same logic Antifa uses to justify and rationalize physical assault, of course. Any opinion they dislike is fascism. Fascism, they contend, inevitably leads to genocide. Therefore, silencing opinions they dislike is preventing genocide, and constitutes a kind of retroactive, preemptive self-defense. This has only ever been a rationalization, but is the reason they DEMAND you affirm them. If you don’t agree with them, your “silence” in affirming their issues is now metaphorical violence. They then feel more than justified in using physical violence to hurt and kill you.
The Left now says it is not enough merely to live your life and hurt no one else. It is not enough for you simply not to be a racist. If you do not affirm them, if you do not agree with them, if you do not comply with and support their political causes, you are STILL guilty. Today, the crime is “racism.” Tomorrow, the crime will be anything else they invent to malign you.
Only a few short steps separate shouting, “Silence is violence” from shouting, “Assault all those who aren’t loudly supportive enough.” You may think that sounds absurd. It certainly would have sounded so thirty years ago. Today, it is only too plausible… and that reality is a lot closer than you think.