For some reason, speaking your mind has become offensive and is not to be tolerated. Dissent is the lifeblood of our nation, and this idea that disagreement with our government somehow makes us less American, less patriotic, is absurd. Flag print underwear and a Fourth of July BBQ is not what makes us patriotic. Patriotism is a love and devotion to your country, and who is more devoted than one who sees its flaws and, out of love, wants to correct them rather than just standing on the sidelines complaining about them? Using your voice, no matter what it may say, is an essential and intrinsic part of our nature as Americans.
Many stay silent because we’ve been taught that the average American isn’t worth listening to. More credence is given to doctors, lawyers, politicians, and news anchors, though the latter is becoming less and less a factor as news gives way to opinion. Year by year, the roots of our country have been covered over slowly by complacency, by apathy, and by the mistaken belief that we have a government made up of experts who are working for our best interests. We forget that those involved in the War of independence were well educated, but not experts. They were simply revolutionary. Normal, everyday Americans created the Confederacy, the League of Women’s Voters, the Civil Rights Movement, and a hundred other campaigns and grass roots efforts that have changed America and helped her grow. It is the creation of those movements, the ability of the people to speak for themselves, that has allowed us to come this far, but we seem to have stagnated. Why?
Our lack of inertia is partially due to the “Politically Correct” movement in which labels became verboten, many for good reason, but many that were necessary. One of the major problems is that we take something that applies in one area of our lives and implement it across the board. While we shouldn’t be labeling children as “disabled” because they can’t do everything other children do, it does not harm to identify oneself as Conservative or Liberal as long as it does not become our only means of identification. Labels provide a starting point, a way to identify one’s beliefs or direction and find others on the same course, but they also give us the ability to generalize and ignore those with opposing views. It makes discussing those views a battle, with an “us vs. them” mentality, rather than an open discussion in which a consensus could possibly be reached.
Because of those labels, we avoid topics that we know will be controversial for one group or another, making sure that no ground can be gained by either side. Discussion and debate is necessary for progress, even if we vehemently disagree with each other. This has become increasingly difficult because our society holds a deep seated belief that something that might offend should not be discussed. Many people have a strict “No Religion, No Politics” rule for all group events. We are so afraid of a raised voice or a heated debate that instead we talk about the weather. Blue skies and sunny days are never offensive. Unfortunately, this stance helps facilitate the facade of tolerance that permeates much of our culture. It requires no actual thought or reason, no real debate, no knowledge of any kind. We say it is out of respect, so that no one is offended, but it is, at its very core, offensive to those who created this nation and expected it to evolve.
The inability to talk openly about politics, government, and religion makes people lose their respect for it, as well as for those demanding the silence. Why should you keep something to yourself simply because it is offensive to someone else if it could lead to a productive discussion? When the abolitionists talked about freedom for slaves, it was offensive to some. When women demanded the right to vote, it was offensive to some. Being offensive to point out hypocrisy or injustice is what Americans have been doing since the country began. It is why we became our own nation. We have forgotten that avoidance is not tolerance. In fact, it is avoidance that has made us an intolerant people, incapable of seeing the similarities between those of varying points of view.