A quintessential aspect of American life has been the intellectually debating of issues of all kinds. The importance of debate and the free flow of ideas was recognized by the Founding Fathers when they incorporated the right of free speech as the First Amendment to the United States Constitution. Debate and competition between ideas leads advances civilization, intelligence and liberty.
I recall as a young high school student being fascinated by the liberals’ advocacy for socialism. I ordered a book advocating socialism so I could understand the arguments and rationale that supporters made on behalf of their beliefs. One day the assistant principal of the high school saw me reading it, took it out of my hands, looked at it, tossed it back to me, barking that I should throw away that trash and not waste my time reading it. I remember thinking to myself that his reaction was a little closed minded, considering that as a high school (and later college) debater we were required to often debate both sides of an issue. The assistant principal was steeped in his disregard for socialism, which is fine, but blind in his approach to arguing the subject.
Imagine how much more effective the assistant principal would have been had he instead said to me, read the book, then come to my office and let’s talk about (i.e. debate) what you learned. That exchange of ideas between the mush-brained teenager and the middle-aged principal would have epitomized the ideal educator.
But debate is being stifled in this country at every turn. On this morning’s talk radio I heard callers constantly yelling, talking over, and refusing to answer questions, except with more questions. Then I heard Bill Clinton taking questions during this Clinton Global Initiative press conference. I was particularly struck by his advocacy of shutting down debate about
global warming global cooling climate change. You can hear the exchange in the video below:
Here is a (former) President of the United States advocating making it politically incorrect to debate climate science. He uses the phrase “denier,” a word that is most closely associated with the imbecile Holocaust deniers. In essence, the former President is saying shout them down, embarrass them, harass them, but certainly don’t meet them on the stage of debating the issue. In other words, don’t try to win your argument intellectually, win it politically.
This is the state of discourse in America today. Political correctness, emotion, and violence have become the tools of those on the left who can’t, or aren’t willing, to make their case with facts, logic and reason. Those on the right can be just as guilty in this regard. We should all make ourselves cognizant of this trend, watch for it, reject it, and refuse to practice it ourselves. George Orwell’s “newspeak” is overtaking our linguistics and discourse.
Without honest, open debate, this democratic republic cannot survive.