February 9, 2012
Religion is like a penis. It’s fine to have one, and it’s fine to be proud of it, but please don’t whip it out in public and start waving it around. And PLEASE don’t try to shove it down my child’s throat.
Do you agree or disagree with the preceding statement? O.K, let’s play a game here. What about...
Atheism is like a penis. It’s fine to have one and it’s fine to be proud of it, but please don’t whip it out in public and start waving it around. And PLEASE don’t try to shove it down my child’s throat.
Now what do you think? Do you agree or disagree? Hold that thought.
Some weeks ago, as part of my assigned readings, I read an article titled: “Debate? Dissent? Discussion? Oh, Don’t Go There!,” by Michiko Kakutani. Kakutani is an American Pulitzer Prize-winning critic for The New York Times and is considered a leading literary critic in the United States.
Kakutani argues that in the quest for political correctness, many have adopted a taciturn stance, preferring to mask their opinions and convictions, in the fear that they will not align either with those of others or with the more popular opinion. This, in turn, has led to a general paradigm shift towards stifling of discourse over issues, particularly those considered to be of a sensitive nature. Such an atmosphere makes it okay for people to make statements such as those above.
I agree with Michiko’s observation that students have become more diplomatic, more aware of the differing opinions, viewpoints and ideologies in today’s world. But is awareness alone sufficient? When I recently told a peer that I believe in creation, his first reaction was “Are you serious? You mean you are a college student and you believe in that!?” That was a kinder reaction.
On other occasions, I’ve been rewarded with an incredulous look that says “I can’t believe they let people who still believe such things into Hamilton.” or “What a pitiable misguided ignorant fool you must be.” Should this be the case?
Most people have strong convictions and although some may choose to pretend otherwise, I feel it is intellectually dishonest. Colleges are supposed to be sanctuaries of intellectual discussion and debate. An atmosphere where being vocal about your beliefs is met with hostility or any form of belittlement should be undesirable at any college.
Instead of putting up a veneer of tolerance and proving false to its power, perhaps we could take it further. What about if we cultivate genuine respect for other’s differing opinions? I think that the mentality that certain issues should be stowed away as skeletons in cupboards is hardly respectful.
There is, I believe, a subtle difference between just tolerating differing opinions and respecting them. An atmosphere of tolerance would be satisfied simply with just saying “whatever” or “don’t go there” , phrases Katukani says are the identifying marks of our generation.
Now think back to those quotes at the beginning of my article. You may have initially agreed with one or the other. But maybe now, you feel differently. Or perhaps, you still strongly agree with one or the other. Whatever the case, it’s fine to hold your conviction. But it is also fine to maintain an atmosphere of respect, one that should seek to engage with differing viewpoints, allow for dialogue and debate. I shouldn’t have to worry about being cast as a simpleton simply because I believe in Jehovah.