If you are like me, you probably listen to an opinion on a radio broadcast or read a book with which you disagree.   You might share a work space with a committed conservative or a liberal equally certain that her position is the correct one.  Someone may come to your door asking for money or — worse — attempting to convert you to their religion.

And yet, in the world I inhabit, we all manage to get along respectfully.  Heck, I even treat telemarketers politely!  We might even discuss our differing points of view, but we do so with respect and with a smidgen of humility understanding that, we too, might be wrong.

But usually, if we really thought we were wrong, we’d change our opinion, wouldn’t we?

So, we all think we’re right, and yet, there are all these people around us who are wrong, wrong, wrong!  If so, how do we act when faced with something with which we disagree?

Generally, we figure it’s a free country, and you are free to be wrong.  I’ll repeat, in the world I live, these disagreements are generally handled carefully and respectfully.  We don’t yell at each other.  We don’t riot.  Heck, most of us don’t even picket!  We certainly don’t spray people with pepper spray, start fires, trash a Starbucks, or assault a fellow human being.

If you’ve read any of my previous political blogs (Seriously, This Is Scary.Is There No End to This?Inarguable Inauguration Chaos, Unashamed Hypocrisy) I’ve spoken against this type of extreme response previously.  But now, I’d like to discuss it again and look at possible motivations I believe might be causing the violence.

The Bell Curve

In 1994, a book called The Bell Curve by Richard J. Herrnstein and Charles Murray was printed.  I remember the outcry at the time and the claims that the book was racist.  I also recall the authors on National Public Radio denying the assertions and stating that their accusers didn’t understand what they had written.  After that, the furor died down — or so I thought.  Recently, I saw the book at a second-hand store for a thrifty 99 cents.  Mildly curious about it, I bought it.  The tome is over 800 pages long, and I’m growing less likely to read it as I look at it.  So I was astonished to hear that while Mr. Herrnstein passed away shortly after the book was published, Mr. Charles Murray is still writing and speaking.

But not at Middlebury College

Recently, Mr. Murray was invited to speak at Middlebury College in Vermont.  The New York Times gives a good overview of what happened.  Riots and felonious assaults ensued.  Mr. Murray is seventy-five years old, and he had to be escorted out of the building under guard for his protection.  One woman was seized by the hair and drug to the ground.  At least the New York Times states that Middlebury College is investigating and intends to dole out punishment to those involved.

I’ve asked this in previous blogs, but I’ll repeat the question here:  why are these recent riots — in fact all the riots I can remember right now — populated by people on the progressive left?

So, what should have happened?

This is what I suggest should have happened:  those who disagreed with the book should first make sure that they know with what they disagree.  In other words, they should first read the book.  Maybe all the rioting students had read the book, but I have my doubts.  I’m a quick reader, and I’m not sure I want to do it!  Next, they could read other books that address the alleged fallacies of The Bell Curve.  At the very least, they could read both sides as condensed on the internet.  That way, they could be informed — keeping in mind that we shouldn’t believe everything we read on the internet!

But if reading the 800 page book and its detractors isn’t feasible because of a heavy college course load, which I understand, then why not simply quietly attend the lecture, listen to the speaker, and then ask questions politely at its conclusion?  What if, upon listening to the speaker, you learn he isn’t racist?  It gives you a chance to adjust your thinking to the truth.  And if you learn he is indeed racist, then you now know it from your own experience rather than what someone else has told you.  This way, if someone is being swayed by racist words, there is a calm, tolerant voice in the audience that says, “This isn’t what I believe, and this is why.”

Wouldn’t this be a better ?  If tolerance is the best path, how can rudeness, riots, and assaults be the best medium to express it?  Doesn’t violence intimidate rather than persuade? Doesn’t violence actually detract from and undermine a position, particularly a position that espouses tolerance and diversity?

The best proof against racism

I’m of the opinion that well-known figures like Ben Carson, Barak Obama, Colin Powell, or Condoleezza Rice — or better — unknown figures like the men and women with whom I work with on a daily basis are adequate proof that that high IQs aren’t alone the province of a particular racial group or gender.

Then why did they do what they did?

So, I have a question:  if tolerance and diversity are obvious truths — and I think they are — why did the students feel they had to be rude and then result to violence?

I don’t know any of the students, so I only have guesses, but I think they are guesses we should consider.  I doubt any of the students will enjoy reading my conjectures, though they are probably safe from reading my opinion.  It’s rather unlikely that any of them will find this blog.  Still, I hope at least some will stumble across it, read what I wrote, and take a look at their motives to see if, perhaps, there are some unpleasant things lurking hidden underneath the surface.

First, I think the students were so convinced that they were righteous and Mr. Murray evil, that violence became a perfectly acceptable response in their eyes.  It’s a rather scary form of self-righteousness and lack of humility, because what if they decide next that you are wrong?

Second, they were unable to articulate cogently why they were right and Mr. Murray wrong, so they became violent to silence debate.  Intimidation causes others to be fearful and buys their silence, and they would never need to articulate why Mr. Murray was wrong and they are right.

Third, they believe freedom of speech only extends as far as they determine.  At some level, the students have decided that some forms of speech are so bad that they don’t have to permit it.  And, worse, they have determined they are the ones who decide what is acceptable.

There may be other factors.  Mr. Murray wrote that he believed that some of the teachers encouraged the “uncivil disobedience” and that dissenting teachers and students were afraid to object for fear they would be harmed.  And perhaps the students were encouraged by other, recent acts of rioting (and the lack of response) and considered that the consequences of their actions would be either nonexistent or minimal.  Maybe that’s all true.  But I think these are symptoms rather than root causes.

But I have one more guess — a possibility I hope is not correct.

Four, what if, deep down in their hearts, the students don’t believe we are all equal?  If that’s the case, they are violent to hide from themselves.  Their violence becomes a whitewash, a mask they wear to present a better face to the world.

If the latter reason is true, then it’s better to acknowledge it, confess it, and repent.

Assaults, shouting, and violence will only bury the sin deeper where it may never be reached.


3 thoughts on “Uncivil Debate

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