By Stan Rasmussen
In one of his hallmark addresses, delivered in 1963, President John F. Kennedy proclaimed,
[L]et us not be blind to our differences – but let us also direct attention to our common interests and to the means by which those differences can be resolved. And if we cannot end now our differences, at least we can help make the world safe for diversity. For, in the final analysis, our most basic common link is that we all inhabit this small planet. We all breathe the same air. We all cherish our children’s future. And we are all mortal.
In her recent article, “How the Illiberal Left Uses Silencing Tactics,” author Kirsten Powers recently focused on an issue that illustrates how far our nation has drifted from the ethos of this fundamentally American value and aspiration President Kennedy expressed two generations ago. Ms. Powers’ Democratic-Party pedigree and personal philosophy make it difficult for progressives to ignore or marginalize her scathing commentary.
In her words:
In March 2014, pioneering Internet company Mozilla announced the appointment of co-founder Brendan Eich as CEO. That same day, a Twitter mob exploded with criticism of Eich. Gay rights supporters were angry about a 6-year-old donation of $1,000 to the “Yes on 8” campaign, which sought to ban same-sex marriage in California in 2008.
It’s OK to be angry about Eich’s donation. Screaming for Eich’s head on a pike for his failure to conform to Mozilla’s majority view on same-sex marriage is not.
Liberals are supposed to believe in protecting minority views, even when they disapprove of those views.
Instead an online mob of presumably “liberal” people tweeted about Eich’s donation, many calling him a bigot and homophobe for supporting Prop 8. …
The writer Andrew Sullivan — who is gay and was one of the earliest public advocates of same-sex marriage — wrote at the time of Eich’s ouster, “When people’s lives and careers are subject to litmus tests, and fired if they do not publicly renounce what may well be their sincere conviction, we have crossed a line. This is McCarthyism applied by civil actors. This is the definition of intolerance.”
In the article, an excerpt from her book, The Silencing: How the Left Is Killing Free Speech, Kirsten Powers continues.
Because many of the silencing tactics employed by the illiberal left do not involve the government though some do, particularly at public universities — the illiberal left will often claim they are not infringing on anybody’s right to free speech. This willfully misses the point.
Freedom requires more than the “structures” of freedom such as a liberal Constitution and a just legal system. It requires the “spirit” of freedom, which is passed from generation to generation.
This insight, which comes from the 18th century philosopher Montesquieu, was famously applied to the United States by Alexis de Tocqueville in his book “Democracy in America,” in which he observed that America owes its freedom not so much to the law as to the “habits of the heart” of freedom-loving American citizens.
The illiberal left is eradicating these “habits of the heart” so Americans won’t even remember what it was like to be able to speak freely without fear of retaliation from a silencing mob or a few disgruntled lefties.…
The older you are, the less likely it is that you believe the First Amendment’s protections are too robust. … If younger Americans are that accepting of government interference in speech, then how much more tolerant will they be of unofficial silencing?
“[I]f we cannot end now our differences, at least we can help make the world safe for diversity” serves now not just as a lofty aspiration but as an urgent admonition.