‘Safe spaces,’ triggers and political correctness: Try common decency, instead

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By Greg Markley

My experience having taught at Fort Benning, GA for eight years is that there are two words that soldier-students do not want to hear. No, not “Pop Quiz!” Instead, the answer is: “Jane Fonda!” Those words surely get students’ attention, but may result in non-lethal weapons such as pens coming your way. The actress, age 82, still gets arrested for protesting this and that.
Her infamy comes from jumping on a North Vietnamese anti-aircraft gun in Hanoi, in 1972. That’s right: Carousing in an enemy country with the very people we were fighting against! Many of today’s soldiers have fathers or grandfathers who served honorably in Vietnam.
This is why her name is a “trigger” for them.
Being “triggered” means you can be easily ticked off by something that upsets your value system. In this case, Jane Fonda is an anathema to many people, decades after her foolish actions in Vietnam. Getting triggered means you have a personality that is easily agitated about some word or thing. You may be on the verge of getting hot-headed about whatever your trigger is.
For the last 10 years or so, “triggering” has referred mostly to college and university students. Or, to the occasional high school students (like Swedish activist Greta Thunberg, age 17). The documentary called “No Safe Spaces” highlights things like “triggering,” “snowflakes” and the well-worn First Amendment. A human snowflake is very sensitive or easily offended.
Also, a “snowflake” believes he or she is entitled to special treatment because they (supposedly) have unique characteristics. Oddly, this movie was never shown on any of the 27 AMC screens in the Auburn-Opelika area. But its bipartisan message is worth presenting. Its thesis is that identity politics and challenges to free speech are plentiful and must be addressed.
The film stars Dennis Prager, an American conservative radio talk show host and writer.
He developed a large series of YouTube videos called PragerU, on “hot” topics. The costar is Adam Carolla. He is an American comedian, actor and libertarian. His podcast set the record as the “most downloaded podcast” in 2011, according to the Guinness Book of World Records.
“The type of diversity they (the Left) hate is diversity of thought,” said David Rubin, a famous progressive who several years ago morphed into a classical liberal, in No Safe Spaces.
As far as the “snowflakes” go, “You can’t always protect them, so the best you can do is make them strong.” So said Canadian psychologist Jordan Peterson; author of the bestseller 12 Rules for Life.
Van Jones, a CNN commentator and former official in the Obama administration, complains in the movie that “too many young people have not learned how to defend their views.” Also in the film, former U.S. President Barack Obama says to students “Anybody who comes to speak to you, and you disagree with, you should have an argument with them. But you shouldn’t silence them.”
Another current trend that is ticking upward is “Political Correctness.” Though it has been around for decades, and a strong conservative opposition has emerged against it, political correctness is still the modus operandi of many college or university students. The term describes language and measures meant to avoid offense or disadvantage to particular sectors in society. In public discourse and the media, the term is generally seen as a negative.
The interesting thing about political correction is, I believe, that in many cases a better term could be used: “common decency.” When people do something because of “political correctness,” they are often doing it for show. And in private we get something much different, such as I noticed in the 1988 Georgia primary for the U.S. presidential election.
Perhaps the most disturbing incident mentioned in No Safe Spaces is the case of Bret Weinstein, a biology professor at Evergreen State College, in Olympia, Washington. He resigned after he was lambasted for showing up for work on a “Day of Absence.” The special day was a tradition in which ethnic minorities would voluntarily stay home to shed light on the role they play at the college.
But Weinstein objected to a change made that year, which included asking whites to go to off-campus programs that day. Weinstein and his wife, Heather Heyling, also a professor, resigned as a result of hostility because they refused to participate in the “Day of Absence.” It was a perfect case where political correctness ran amuck. It paralyzed Weinstein’s career and his wife’s. All because a situation that may have worked thru common decency fell prey to rigidity.
Greg Markley has lived in Lee County for 18 of the last 23 years. An award-winning journalist, he has master’s degrees in education and history. He has taught as an adjunct in Georgia and Alabama.

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