In the past several years since I have been posting essays on this website, I have purposely stayed away from political commentary, mainly because my vision for this site is one of self-reflection and interior journeying as opposed to raising topics likely to arouse heated emotions. And, while my vision has not changed, recent events have prompted me to devote today’s essay to a topic which by its very nature has political overtones. That topic is censorship.
Censorship comes in various guises, and when we think about that term I expect most of us think about censorship by governments which seek to suppress the free exchange of information among their citizens, and/or to prevent those citizens from obtaining information from other countries whose philosophies may threaten the agendas of those in control. While this is a despicable form of censorship, it’s not the type of censorship I want to write about today, because most of us recognize censorship when it appears in that form, and most of us – I hope – would fight to oppose censorship when enforced by a government.
The type of censorship which prompted me to write this essay is a much more insidious form of censorship, a kind of censorship that assumes the mantle of righteous indignation, that accuses those of differing opinions of being terrible persons by labeling them with names such as “racist”, “right wing bigot”, “liberal nut job”, or appellations much, much worse. This more insidious form of censorship is a personally directed and accusatory kind of censorship, which intends by the very fact of its personal attack to stifle through social intimidation and reprobation the free expression of its victim. And, unfortunately, this sort of censorship has been aided by the shield of electronic communications which seems to have unleashed a torrent of the sort of verbal abuse from which most people would refrain in a face to face encounter.
Believe me, I know how strong emotions are currently running as this country approaches the 2016 presidential elections, and how polarized people’s positions have become, much more than I can recall in several decades. Many of us, myself included, have deep personal views and convictions about where this country is going, or where we think it is going. But regardless of our personal views, it is flat out wrong to attack someone else because you don’t like what they have said. In the past several weeks I have been called a “racist”, told I am a stupid and ignorant person who doesn’t understand the issues,and been accused of wanting a “Hitler” in the White House, etc., etc., etc. – all by people I don’t even know and solely in response to my stating a position with which the person posting did not agree.
The insidious kind of censorship, the kind visited upon people by other individuals is, in my mind, significantly more effective than government imposed censorship, because our normal response to being repeatedly ridiculed in public usually results in causing us to keep silent. And isn’t that the goal of all censorship? To silence the opposition.
I must add, however, that the name calling among the hoi polloi has not been helped by the fact that both of the candidates running for president, as well as those who were defeated in the primaries, have been in the gutter for some time now, slinging mud as fast as they can dig it up. Maybe the title of this essay should have been “Where has Civility Fled”?