CNN’s Fareed Zakaria made news Sunday when he called out the American left for what he described as intolerance of conservative views, citing specifically recent campus protests of Vice President Mike Pence and Education Secretary Betsy Devos.
“Freedom of speech and thought is not just for warm fuzzy ideas that we find comfortable, it’s for ideas that we find offensive,” Zakaria said on his Sunday program. The host noted that anti-intellectualism existed on the right but that “there is also an anti-intellectualism on the left.”
Liberals, said Zakaria, often exhibit, “An attitude of self-righteousness that says we are so pure, we are so morally superior; we cannot bear to hear an idea with which we disagree.”
Zakaria is right, and while protesting at universities or anywhere else is also part of free speech, there has been a growing attitude on the left in recent years that ideas that offend are little different than assault, from which delicate ears must be protected. The absurd campus phenomenon of “safe spaces” is the most extreme example of this trend.
“Liberals think they are tolerant but often they aren’t,” Zakaria would add.
This is true, but it’s not new. For both left and right partisans, there have always been certain hot button issues of which one side thinks the other is no longer deserving of an alternative view.
In his Politico story earlier this month, “Why liberals aren’t as tolerant as they think,” Matthew Hutson wrote, “For years, it’s conservatives who have been branded as intolerant, often for good reason. But conservatives will tell you that liberals demonstrate their own intolerance, using the strictures of political correctness as a weapon of oppression.”
Hutson cites multiple studies and concludes that “While liberals might like to think of themselves as more open-minded, they are no more tolerant of people unlike them than their conservative counterparts are.” This is similar to Zakaria’s observations, who also referred to similar studies.
Tolerance is key in any healthy society, particularly when it comes to basic American societal values such as free speech. It’s also relatively simple in our day-to-day. It’s basic manners and courtesy for your fellow man. I always start with trying to see where people are coming from, particularly those who I disagree with.
Most people, right or wrong, are not coming from bad places.
The millions who voted for Donald Trump are overwhelmingly not monsters, as much as some on the left want to believe this, just as the throngs who rallied to Barack Obama in 2008 were not hell bent on taking the country toward socialism, as the most fevered right-wingers would insist for eight years.
They were just Americans who happened to disagree with each other.
This is a big country with 300 million different souls and views. The longstanding partisan notion that one day the right or left will finally vanquish the other and then the country will finally be set aright has always struck me as both unlikely and inaccurate. Left and right both have some good ideas but are also chocked full of bad ones, as history has shown.
But that’s why we debate. Which means we at least have to listen to each other.
Liberals, that goes for you too.