When you go to college you expect protests and to have contradicting opinions thrown into your face. The scary thing about that is with safe spaces and trigger warnings we are creating environments where you won’t have your opinions disagreed with as commonly anymore. I’ve had arguments here on campus and they have been very tame in comparison to what I came across in high school. In my social studies class in high school the argument could escalate to the point to where people could barely speak anymore from being so tired out about the subject. I learned a lot through those arguments, and while I have learned things from the debates I’ve had here on campus I didn’t walk away from them feeling like either side really got to explain what they meant, for fear of coming off the wrong way. It’s become common practice for people to be considered sensitive, to which I question if an ideal world to live in would be one where instead of focusing on the topic at hand, we focus on our argument being valid through us not appearing as negative in the eyes of the people we’re debating with. I’ve even found myself falling into the trap of being oversensitive to the people I’m talking to for fear of them not listening to my argument anymore.
I remember a time when I was concerned with what was okay to say and what was not okay to say. Sometimes the things that are or are not okay to say are not really up to my discretion on whether or not they are offensive. A common example I can use is that I could refer to something as “autistic,” and even though it may not actually show signs of autism I still used the word, which some people might find offensive and I cannot help that. My point in saying this is that people who are trying to be “politically correct” are trying to pinpoint what’s okay to say and what isn’t, and most of the time it isn’t up to them on what we can or can’t say. A good example of this was in the 10th season of South Park in episodes 3 and 4. In said episodes the problem of sensitivity arises when one show wants to feature the Muslim prophet Muhammad on air without censoring his image. A lot of things happen in between the beginning of the story and the end, but the main focus isn’t on the story but on the takeaway; a quote from one of the characters in the show: “You can’t make a distinction between what is ok to poke fun at and what isn’t. Either it is all ok, or none of it is” (Parker). In a youtube video I watched recently I heard the creator of the video tell me that I was a terrible person if I made jokes about people with physical illnesses, which is just as bad as making fun of someone with a mental illness (Video). Which goes hand in hand with the message South Park is trying to convey: anyone should be able to joke about anything.
A common saying is that our generation isn’t oversensitive, which is understandable to believe, because it’s not too far fetched… yet. As said by writer for The New York Times Katie Byron, us “millennials are creating a more inclusive world” (Byron), which in it’s own respect isn’t a bad thing, but applied to how our culture is already inclusive as is, this could pose to be a future problem. Why is this a problem you may ask? If we are being careful to make sure everyone is being included when everyone is already included, then we are just framing our debates to be very non-constructive with catering to everyone’s needs, even when what they want contradicts the very problem we are trying to solve. We as a culture cannot begin to structure our arguments to cater to everyone’s wants and needs, or else we’ll begin to focus on people’s feelings instead of working towards the solution.
Even if you still think that oversensitivity isn’t an issue, you can’t deny court cases in which people were sued for their opinions or times when “the federal Department of Education, [tried] to suppress student speech” (Volokh). There are other times when students just straight up refuse to take part in discussion simply because they don’t agree with the other side’s opinion. Even if the generation after millennials comes in to change things it won’t matter because “the largest generation in American history — will soon define how America does business, how America thinks and feels, and whether America holds fast to its free speech ideals” (Lythcott-Haims). With the new industry being dominated in terms of your sensitivity towards other cultures, it can become a bit of an issue for those who are actually trying to be progressive with their ideas.
What we should be working towards as the new generation molding the United States of America should be a culture that is better for those coming in behind us, and making a culture where everyone has to eventually agree is not the ideal, because it’s utopian–it’s impossible. We should be able to eventually agree on some things, but “consensus should not be the goal – even about free speech” (McCarthy).
Byron, Katie. “Millennials Are Creating a More Inclusive and Just World.” New York Times, 21 Dec. 2015, http://www.nytimes.com/roomfordebate/2015/11/02/when-a-generation-becomes-less-tolerant-of-free-speech/millennials-are-creating-a-more-inclusive-and-just-world.
Green, Hank. OCD & Anxiety Disorders: Crash Course Psychology #29. YouTube. Crash Course. 1 Sep. 2014. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aX7jnVXXG5o&index=29&list=PLNo419yvwUDDuGEekLWgdlJPUA3WOVeig
Lythcott-Haims, Julie. “Millennials Will Soon Define ‘America,’ and That’s a Problem for Ideas.” New York Times, 21 Dec. 2015, http://www.nytimes.com/roomfordebate/2015/11/02/when-a-generation-becomes-less-tolerant-of-free-speech/millennials-will-soon-define-america-and-thats-a-problem-for-ideas.
McCarthy, Kathleen. “Today’s Students Have a New Way of Looking at Free Speech.” New York Times, 21 Dec. 2015, http://www.nytimes.com/roomfordebate/2015/11/02/when-a-generation-becomes-less-tolerant-of-free-speech/todays-students-have-a-new-way-of-looking-at-free-speech.
Parker, Trey. “Cartoon Wars II.” South Park. Comedy Central. 12 Apr. 2016.
Volokh, Eugene. “The Importance of Protecting Even the Thoughts We Hate.” New York Times, 2 May 2016, http://www.nytimes.com/roomfordebate/2015/11/02/when-a-generation-becomes-less-tolerant-of-free-speech/the-importance-of-protecting-even-the-thoughts-we-hate.
Wikipedia contributors. “Cartoon Wars Part I.” Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia. Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia, 24 Oct. 2016. Web. 24 Oct. 2016. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cartoon_Wars_Part_I
Wikipedia contributors. “Cartoon Wars Part II.” Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia. Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia, 16 Nov. 2016. Web. 16 Nov. 2016. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cartoon_Wars_Part_II