Authors’ note: the decision to remove asterisks from some lovely choice words was a point of much of contention and a debate ultimately won by Omar upon pointing out that censorship is indeed the bane of this article’s very existence.
Fact: Annie Whitney is an unaffiliated voter hailing from a Trump stronghold who cast her ballot for Hillary. The daughter of an Egyptian immigrant but able to speak little more than “Ana Maha,” she feels a fraud. Ever guilty of people pleasing and southern yes ma’am and yes sirring, she fell hard into the PC filter trap.
Fact: Omar Kamel, on the other hand, wouldn’t know the difference between a PC filter and an air filter. Born in Cairo and raised around the world, most recently in Australia, the lad’s got a knack for morally questionable humor that will make your hair raise in the language of your choice.
By Annie Whitney & Omar Kamel
We’re not saying you should ever, under any circumstances, impute words like “nigger” or “cunt.” That’s hate speech. Nor should you wear blackface or white pointed hoods or bring along a lady just for arm candy. But people do and it’s high time we understand why. There is a line between no speech and hate speech called healthy discussion. We’ve pushed it far too far. Ever think it could actually be you, it could actually be me?
You are not entitled to more because you had less.
You are owed due respect and love because you are a human – nothing more, nothing less. Standing up for others is great. We need more allies in this world. But don’t pretend to be those with whom you ally, nor to understand their suffering. It’s time we all do ourselves a favor and learn the difference between empathy and sympathy.
For instance, some say that smoking is a fire-hazard. Others think censorship isn’t very nice.
But the no smoking signs posted at gas stations all over the world warning of cigarette-induced explosions just distract from the deeper issue: smoking is cancerous. Similarly, while censorship poses short-term threats to personal liberties, it carries a more pervasive threat to democracy as the cancer of democratic discourse.
Though this isn’t your day-to-day run-of-the-mill age-induced benign tumor. This cancer is a full-blown epidemic. It’s the kind that clings onto you for dear life and spreads painfully yet slowly to your most vital, most precious organs destroying and mutilating all in its path. That is our epidemic. The cancer that we’ve visibly been diagnosed with, time and time again, but can’t seem to shake off. And yet, while our prospects seemed grim, the prognosis remained positive.
Indeed, in the most painful of times, we could always retreat to the University; our enclosed, cancer-free haven. Of the most intellectually conducive of environments and home to the blossoming of nuanced dialect, sourced in individual variety and multiplicity in opinions. Den of academia, marketplace for critical thinking, open-mindedness and debate, this place is, in the most ironic use of the term, our safe-space. We would be lying if we were to presume that this remains to be the case.
In a sense, it’s as if in promoting liberal ideas we’ve managed to do a complete 180° and take those ideals to the opposite extreme of a stream of thought. This liberal open-mindedness, healthy in and of itself, is now an imposed discourse for all, dictating a certain trend to be followed. Today, the general movement prescribes that you be a feminist, xenophilic, anti-Zionist atheist preferably from an unprivileged colored ethnic minority with a dash of socialist tendencies. And God forbid you be a male, or even white, else your input be automatically invalidated.
Among the greatest gifts of modern liberal democracy is free speech. Not included is selective listening. You are a not the NSA reincarnate. If you pass by a conversation unfavorable to your taste, it’s not yours to scoff upon or shut down. Perhaps you find it insulting, and you are certainly entitled to your feelings, but best remember your feelings don’t prevail. So rather than walk onward with your nose turned up, sit down, grab a coffee of coffee, first listen, then join. Respect will never come from unbounded censorship, but from working through a hateful crust to arrive at a more impressionable core. Radical militant rhetoric—or the complete lack thereof—will get us nowhere.
We have come to refute the fact that any other way of looking at the world is acceptable. It seems that being on the political right is now a shame, only attributed to Jew-hating anti-Semitic xenophobic evangelical racist freaks. It’s almost as if right-wing parties had no place in our countries, let alone an identity for a sizeable half of the population. As if the entirety of all conservative parties in the world were composed of your supremacist uncle, the secluded cat lady down the street and four chickens.
There is a certain absurdity in the systematic ban of “taboo” offending viewpoints, in some ways reminiscent of the Spanish Inquisition. This mainstream culture for the smothering of perceivably blasphemous ideas and then subsequently vilifying their authors is in no small means the equivalent of a social auto-da-fé. Lest we not forget it was Michelle Obama herself who so poignantly reminded us: “When they go low, we go high.” We have to hold ourselves to the same standards we hold others.
And on the topic of the First Lady, we want to elect a female president based on her merits, but a notably large contingent of Hillary’s supporters are now rallying behind Michelle Obama in hopes of a 2020 run. Don’t get me wrong, Michelle has all the charisma and charm a girl could ever dream of, but we can’t simultaneous look for a strong, kick ass female who busted her way through every glass ceiling en route to the White House and propose one whose fame is derived, if we are being brutally honest, from her husband. If Michelle wants to run one day, more power to her, but we lose all we stand for if we propose her not on her own merits but on those of her husband? Isn’t that more Mad Men era than the post-post-modern West Coast hippy Hillary mantra? Michelle’s strength and sundresses go hand-in-hand, we say, the epitome of the modern, sexy, independent woman. Wait, but Hillary’s pantsuits scream let’s get down to business. But wait again, when Merkel sports almost identical pantsuits, she’s an asexual turnoff unfit to lead? And what if a man wants such a politically nuanced wardrobe? Confused yet? Here’s a thought…wear whatever you might want to wear, male or female, and move on.
And let’s talk about poor Melania. World, please give the lady a chance. We cringe at the suggestion of a mere sexist comment towards Hillary—and rightly, we might add—but we dare call Melania a “sugar baby”? We undermine our own arguments here. If all women are equal, they all are. Left, right, big, small, single, married, rich, poor, any color of the rainbow. Your arguments don’t only stand valid when in your favor, but when they don’t. Otherwise, they have no base at all. In fact, when we de-legitimize our own arguments, we legitimize those against us and empower the underdogs we forgot. The same underdogs who elected blood-thirsty, civil-war-inducing, tax-evading, pussy-grabbing, climate-change-denying demagogues as heads of our states. And they choose to do so not because they necessarily condone such behaviors, but because they found a voice in the last option who chose not to silence them.
Build your arguments not off hearsay but off the hard conversations we never had. Dodging conflict like middle schoolers playing dodge ball is easy, but the second Tuesday of November hit like a ten-ton truck and reminded us that our own apartments are the best of safe spaces but the rest of the world is not. Being offended doesn’t work anymore. So let’s talk about the tampon tax and race relations and the fact that 1 in 4 young women will be raped. But let’s go further. Not just what, but how and why has our non-discourse made these problems worse. It’s best we ask the tough questions now and speak the unspeakable.
Sit down with a homophobe. Dare ask them why they are afraid of gays.
To the racist, why do you wear blackface?
To the rapist, did anyone ever explain to you what constitutes consent or sexual assault?
If you are a rape victim, do you have the right to avoid or end any conversation about sexual assault that may trigger anxiety?
If your father died in 9/11, is it okay to grow antsy around a Quran in an airplane?
Why do the same people who oppose Obamacare—who oppose the right to protect those living—oppose abortions to support the right to protect those unborn?
If affirmative action diversifies a learning environment at the expense of those denied, is it worth it?
Why do you define marriage the way you do? If marriage is defined as a man and a woman, why not two men or two women, and then why not extend tax benefits to polygamous couples, and at that rate, why not to singles? If humans are but animals, why do we even stay faithful at all?
You may think we’re crazy, and you’re not wrong, but take a moment, look around, and tell us the world we live in ain’t crazier than we are.
Bringing us to our last question, if you have the right to free speech, why the hell not use it?
We leave you on this note with an excerpt from the words of Sir Terry Pratchett on the theme of extremism and human nature, in the hope that it may enlighten some of us to reconsider and employ further criticism when judging not only others, but ourselves.
“It was much better to imagine men in some smoky room somewhere, made mad and cynical by privilege and power, plotting over brandy. You had to cling to this sort of image, because if you didn’t then you might have to face the fact that bad things happened because ordinary people, the kind who brushed the dog and told the children bedtime stories, were capable of then going out and doing horrible things to other ordinary people. It was so much easier to blame it on Them. It was bleakly depressing to think that They were Us. If it was Them, then nothing was anyone’s fault. If it was Us, then what did that make Me? After all, I’m one of Us. I must be. I’ve certainly never thought of myself as one of Them. No one ever thinks of themselves as one of Them. We’re always one of Us. It’s Them that do the bad things.”