Danny Cardwell's picture

    Safe Spaces, Trigger Warnings, And Mental Blocks

    Disclaimer: If you're easily offended, or try to avoid controversial subject matter please stop reading. This isn't a provocation or click bait; I'm not concerned with hits, likes, comments, or shares. I genuinely care about people, but I won't consider anyone's feelings as I make my way through what I see as the potential weakening of the progressive movement.

    Too many of our young allies are being stripped of the opportunity to develop a thick skin. Progressives need to end the safe spaces and trigger warnings cult before it ends us. Just for the record, I believe that in a free society everyone's safety should be a priority. I'm not advocating we return to a pre-modern world where machismo and brute force determine outcomes. As a society, we should make every effort to protect people from emotional and physical abuse; I do, however, reject the notion that people need to be protected from ideas- especially ideas that should be confronted. If safe spaces are defined as areas where the dignity of every person is affirmed, and any attempt to diminish that dignity is rejected then, of course, I'm for safe spaces, but let's not fool ourselves: safe spaces and trigger warnings weren't deemed necessary until kids named Hunter, Madeline, Reilly, Emma, and Colin were confronted by aspects of life that made them feel uncomfortable. We have very privileged children joining our ranks who've never learned how to fight.  

    Maybe we should modify the old adage: I'd rather have smart enemies than stupid allies. I believe It's better to have brash political opponents than meek political allies. Whether we admit it or not the right-wing has masterfully redefined the rules of political engagement. Not calling someone a n*gger is the new political correctness. Donald Trump's campaign is, in some ways, fueled by the conservative rejection of the safe space, trigger warning society. Many of our political allies refuse to read the writing on the wall. They're convinced that a more nuanced approach to presenting our views will cause an ideological renaissance in America. They fail to recognize the mental blocks at work in the minds of some of our political opponents. We have political adversaries who trust the guy who hooked up their WIFI more than the scientists who developed the technology. Many on the right don't respect the universities where our ideas are cultivated. Climate change is a joke to someone who doesn't respect the institutions that produced the data that supports it. 

    If the university is the progressives minor leagues, what kind of damage are we doing to our future prospects by coddling them? Yes, we need thoughtful and articulate young people who are sensitive to the feelings of others to help advance our social and economic agenda, but we also need courageous warriors. It's easier to get a hundred undergrads to sign a petition against an energy company polluting the environment than it is to get a dozen to stand up against police brutality. I'm not just attacking the children of wealthy suburbanites who make up the majority of our campuses; even at HBCU's where social movements are a rite of passage there's been a drop off in those who participate in mass movements. I could be wrong, but I believe some of that drop off could be linked to a generation of kids raised by helicopter parents and universities where confrontations are avoided. The University of Missouri stood out because they forced a change, but their numbers were meek compared to the size of the campus.

    The anger expressed by conservatives on television, radio, and the campaign trail is multiplied by their base on social media. Instead of laying out another set of arguments designed to invalidate the roots of that anger, maybe we should just accept the fact that their anger is real to them. The far right isn't just mad; they're willing to fight for their beliefs. I 'm worried that twenty years from now the populist anger we see on the right will go largely unchecked. I know there will always be progressives willing to fight for the cause of social justice, but if your social media experience is similar to mine then you notice that there are more on the right willing to express inaccurate memes and posts than progressives willing to correct the record. It might seem like a leap, but there are too many in our ranks who avoid all forms of conflict. This needs to stop. Twenty loud voices spreading a lie are more useful to a cause than twenty people who know the truth, but are too scared to stand up. We need to match the level of intensity coming from the other side. We're viewed as soft, and I don't see any signs of us shaking that perception.



    Danny, I'm happy you're here and I read everything you write but your first paragraph is almost enough to send me away.  If you don't care about comments and won't consider anyone's feelings there's really no point in commenting or attempting to discuss.

    Also, you might want to use the default font when you post.  It looks less like shouting.  Thanks.

    Ramona - I think  Danny was being ironic.  He used a trigger warning to open a piece that criticizes trigger warnings.

    Ramona, I'm sorry my opening left you feeling like this. I tried to be clear about my intentions,  but it seems like I failed. I don't disrespect anyone- even when attacked, and I have been attacked on this site. As for the font, my vison isn't the best, so as I'm working I need a larger font. I'm not pushing any aggression or micro-agression. I apologize if I didn't articulate that we'll enough.

    Danny, I too am deeply offended by your oppressive font-mongering. People have a right to come to dagblog without being assaulted by a bunch of big letters all jammed together like an overcrowded frat party with a bad Lynyrd Skynyrd cover band.  All the faux-victim whining about poor old eyes doesn't fool me for a second. You, sir, are a font bully.

    Hey man, don't diss Skynyrd - south's gonna do it again and all that (except Ronnie, he's up in heaven with a 6-pack). I need a safe space from anti-Southern microaggression - where do I apply? If only Trump would attack, people would defend. Gimme 3 steps, gimme 3 steps uh mister......

    Maybe you should just go back where you came from. We don't need Skynyrd apologists poisoning the minds of the youth.

    That's why I'm in Europe, poisoning the minds of *their* youth. Rebel Yell, meine Freunde! Free Bird, mes copains !!!

    Danny, I'm sorry.  That first paragraph reminded me of someone else who feels that way.  If it was something other than it appeared, it went past me, which is my fault, not yours.  I'll blame it on reading it on the fly while rushing around, knowing already that that's a pretty lame excuse.  blush

    I think that we buy into wingnut delusions. In the 1960s, institutions of higher learning were shut down by student action who rejected concepts being taught. Today's students action are milquetoast by comparison. Wingnuts whine about losing power. They whine about being called racist, when they are in fact being racist. Because they are treated with kid gloves, they face no consequences. We coddle white supremacists who take over public land. We ignore a Supreme Court Justice who attacks the intellect of black students. We accept this nonsense as the norm and worry about college kids doing much less.

    Activists are taking on Donald Trump at rallies despite facing physical assault. Trump told his supporters to steal the coat of a protester and to push the activist out into 18 degree weather in Vermont. BLM is labeled a terrorist group despite the fact that they were targeted with gunfire. What halts Liberals is not college kids, but the level of wingnut attacks Liberals allow to pass.

    We need to address ongoing assaults coming from the Right first. Given OWS and BLM, the kids are alright, they lack needed backup because Liberals are attacking college kids.

    Let's suppose that Ann Coulter is invited to your campus. You are familiar with her words and work via the Internet, and television including the "Daily Show" and "Real Time". You note that Coulter, in response to Nikki Haley's rebuke of Donald Trump, has suggested that Haley be deported Are you really stunting your education by protesting Coulter speaking on campus?

    Are you really stunting your education by protesting Coulter speaking on campus?

    Yes. You should protest what she says but not the invitation to her to say it.

    Maybe your sign should say

    We defend Coulter's right to lie.


    Thanks for commenting. You are 100% correct when it comes to the vicious nature of the attacks protesters are facing from the Trump crowd. I'm not attacking these kids to hurt them; I want them to be prepared to face the verbal and, God forbid, physical attacks that seem to be a part of protesting a repressive state apparatus. By the time I was a teenager I had been called every racial slur imaginable. I developed a thick skin at an early age. I'm not advocating that kids should be victims to any kind of abuse. I have nieces and nephews who thank God didn't have to endure the racism I did as a child, but I don't confuse ideas that are unpopular with harassment and physical threats. As far as supporting these kids goes, I've been on the streets. When Martese Johnson was beaten up by VA ABC law enforcement I was there marching with Bishop Gordon Fields, Minister Marcus Williams, and the rest of my brothers and sisters from Living Waters Baptist Church and Pilgrim Baptist Church. I was in Baltimore on April 25th and 26th of last year, a very unpopular decision with my wife since the 26th was our anniversary. I'm not just beating keys on an old computer. I've benefited from men and women who made much greater sacrifices than we are asking these kids to make. I had over 100 at risk kids at my Uncle Sammie's church, First Baptist in Rocky Mount, VA a few weeks back. What I see is too many kids having the ability to fight sucked out of them before they ever develop it. I live in the rural south; after South Carolina removed the Confederate flag the kids in their teens and twenties went off. I see the anger and rage that gets reported on the evening news. I'm afraid we are raising a segment of our future base to be soft. We don't need them to pick up arms, but we can't have them ducking conflict either. The far right wants to take "their" country back. This is more than an idle threat. I hope I'm wrong.  

    Thank you for responding. I think we are talking about two different phenomena. There were Brave young people protesting in Baltimore. There were Brave protestors in Ferguson and Staten Island. A brave black woman, Bree Newsome, took down the Confederate flag in South Carolina. The strong blood lines persist.

    The college speech limitation protests are different. We interpret the speech limitations as being afraid of discussions with people who have different opinions. It may be that the students are tired of being forced to consume BS. We assume that students who protest an appearance by Ayaan Hirsi Ali, for example, are delicate flowers who cannot bear to hear criticism of Muslims. It may be that the students know that the students are fully aware of Ali's analysis of the Muslim world. The students may believe that criticizing Muslims and faulting them for not rejecting Islam is an irrational way to solve the problem of Fundamentalists who commit acts of terror. The students may feel that putting the label of Islam on the terrorists legitimizes them as acting on the faith rather than  bastardizing the faith. The students have seen Ali on C-SPAN and other televised outlets. They have read her words online (or, heaven forbid, the library). They were familiar with, or had read her books. The students might view her views as BS.They might feel that there is nothing to be learned from hearing a lecture. There as no going to be an exchange of ideas. The lecture would be a waste of time. The students were operating from a position of strength, not weakness.

    The students who have fight taken out of them are a separate problem. It may be that their parents have lost hope and that is the model the children are following.

    Your analysis is flawed. Except on some fundamentalist Christian colleges like Liberty University no one is "being forced to consume bs." If some students don't want to waste time they can stay home. What happens far too often is some students want to force all students to not hear what a person has to say by getting a lecture canceled. They may be operating from a position of strength but it's a strength that administrators should not submit to. Perhaps a course on free speech and the First Amendment should be a college requirement for students.

    And I have trouble believing most students have a good idea of Hirsi Ali's positions - I frankly haven't looked at her in probably 10 years - undoubtedly her position comes across different in person vs what's written as well. Certainly mass genital mutilation might be worth discussing as much as ISIS attacks and other horrors that confront us.

    I agree. There's been a lot of distorted reporting on her and that's likely all most students know. I like Ali and think much can be learned by a fair consideration of her ideas. But that's not the point. Condi Rice and others have had their speeches canceled or they have withdrawn because they didn't wish to be a part of these fights. I disagree with Rice vehemently but she's an intelligent and accomplished SoS and I would like to hear her speak. The force being applied here is not from the administration forcing students to listen to bs. These liberal anti-free speech fascists want to stop liberal people like me and others from hearing her speak.

    The students are expressing their first amendment rights. In addition, they are going into debt to get their education. 

    The student protests may be less about some sense of emotional security and more about limits on attacks of minority groups. Their so-called "sensitivities" lag behind those of many Europeans.



    Whatever political power the Right may have, it is profitable to consider how much of the cultural war they have declared to have already been won by the Left. The groups supporting Trump and other splinter GOP ideologies all speak of this ascendency of control by forces that has not occurred. The reason that the fiction has so much traction with certain groups is that it explains how the development of an open society where all people can make their contribution is not really happening. But it is happening.

    The opposition is staying well away from the hard stuff.

    I can agree with that.

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