#Triggered By Everything

By: Ken Willette – January, 2019

I think following some trolls on social media can be hazardous to your mental health. There, I said it, are you triggered now? Instead of focusing on the major problems in our society, many of these so-called social justice warriors are concentrating their energies on the proverbial trees rather than the global forest.

For example, on one of the Facebook groups dedicated to local issues, someone deemed it to be her social justice mission in life to call for an outright boycott of the new Chick-Fil-A franchise in Methuen. Why exactly? Because the owners of the national corporation (mind you, not necessarily the local franchise itself) dared some years back to oppose same-sex marriage due to their personal religious beliefs. Not because they directly discriminated against their employees in any fashion, since there is no evidence of such an action. But a political opinion ignited a call for a boycott.

It is very likely that this particular voice in the electronic woods didn’t even know that many people in both parties, including Obama, strongly opposed legalizing same-sex marriage. In fact, it actually took the historic decisions of the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court and the United States Supreme Court to finally legalize same-sex marriage. Only at that point did Obama perform a full flip flop on the issue and changed his tune on same-sex marriage. But honestly, since when have we started to apply a litmus test to business owners on their personal beliefs? Are we going to soon attach a questionnaire to a menu and inquire how business owners feel about assisted suicide, sex before marriage, or their position on the Iraq War? Are we serious here? Can I just get some fries please?

Since when did we completely stop listening to the other side of an argument? It was definitely an evolved and long journey for me to support same-sex marriage. And I personally know people in the GLBTQ community who are strong Catholics still grappling with the core tenets of their religion. So long as a person’s belief system does not violate established laws or court decisions on civil rights, who am I to judge?

Listen, I can’t stand some rap songs. And the lyrics of some rap songs encourage date rape, drop the N-word every five seconds and celebrate the objectification of women. But let’s ban “Baby It’s Cold Outside” from the radio without taking a moment and actually reading the lyrics. When the controversy first took shape on this timeless holiday song, I actually thought it was a joke usually posted on The Onion—a satirical and comedic fake news site. It is almost like the social liberals of 2018 are in concert with the ultra conservatives of the distant past who would ban high school students from reading “1984” or other controversial books because they made specific references to sex, drugs, racism or other tough topics.

My social libertarian roots consistently follow the principle that so long as the activity doesn’t adversely impact me, causes harm to others, or somehow takes away the consent of others, than I am fine with that activity as part of a free society. But it really is hypocritical in the extreme when social media warriors call to the carpet benign and decades-old holiday songs while ignoring music that calls for women to be pimped out or drugged for non-consensual sex.

Have some millennials ironically morphed into their parents in their level of tolerance on music, books and contrary views? In many respects, they both want to remove major educational, entertainment and literary items from a free society.

It is honestly not shocking given what is sadly occurring too often on campuses across the nation. When I attended a liberal arts college back in the 1990s, I was exposed to Howard Zinn’s “A People’s History of the United States” along with the Federalist Papers. Lively classroom debates would include whether the American Revolution actually met the true definition of a revolution. What defined a terrorist versus a freedom fighter? When is war necessary? Has our foreign policy done more harm than good? The learning environment fostered reading and research, points and counterpoints, reason and logic.

Nowadays, campuses are refusing to host certain speakers, clamping down on dissent, and creating a tunnel vision whereby only one political philosophy exists. That is inherently flawed and counterproductive in a free society. It also does a grave disservice to students because neither liberals nor conservatives have an absolute monopoly on truth, reason and a better pathway to the future of this country. But, unfortunately, over time faculty members, students, and fearful school administrations have apparently become so sensitive to the countless trigger claims raised that many of the objections have really merged into ceaseless white noise.

No one wants to venture forward anymore and be a trailblazer. The path of least resistance ends up being the one that routinely denies speakers an audience, bans forums, delists books from classrooms and libraries and creates larger and larger safe spaces—so as not to offend anyone. The chilling effect really shuts down critical thinking and a marketplace of ideas at the expense of everyone. My personal discomfit on certain things should not be an exclusive rationale to do away with such things.

A person who is ultimately triggered by almost everything is really no different than the frog from the old fable, who continues to swim in slowly boiling water and yet does not realize what is occurring in its immediate environment. When a real issue of tremendous importance suddenly arrives on the scene, it will have been too late to respond. ◊