Trigger warning: I am going to make fun of “trigger warnings.”
Of course, if you’re the sort of person who takes trigger warnings very seriously, you probably don’t read this column too often. So maybe my mockery will miss its target, sort of like making fun of the Amish on the Internet — it’s not like they’ll find out.
In fairness, the Amish are actually very impressive people. Even though some Amish communities are more tolerant of technology than the stereotypes suggest, their Anabaptist puritanical streak leaves me cold. On the whole, I like modernity. I may not love every new fad of the last few centuries, but mark me down as a fan of refrigeration, Netflix, modern dentistry, universal suffrage, the internal-combustion engine, and all that stuff.
Here’s another thing about the Amish. They don’t expect everyone else to pussyfoot around them.
You can’t say the same thing about the trigger-unhappy folks making headway on college campuses.
An even more important reason for highlighting Goldberg’s take on trigger warnings is that it offers a good excuse to promote one of the best quotes from his 2010 interview with Carolina Journal Radio.
The most dangerous thing, generically, in a democracy, is groupthink. And I think there are an enormous number of people who watch politics like it’s a TV show and think, “Ah, this bickering is annoying, and … some people say this, and some people say that. Why can’t they all shut up and just agree?” And I have sympathy with their exhaustion. As a pundit, I’m trolling around in this muck 24/7. But the simple fact is that democracy is about disagreement, not about agreement. And when you hear people like Barack Obama saying “I don’t want to hear any talk from the people I disagree with,” or when you hear people like Al Gore say “the time for debate is over,” well, screw you, this is a democracy. And in a democracy, the time for debate is never over.
There is this yearning out there for us to get past partisanship and past our philosophical differences and our ideological divide and all of the rest. What I would ask people to listen for when they hear that, when they hear about this post-partisan nonsense, is ask yourself: Have you ever heard somebody say we really need to move beyond these ideological labels, move beyond this philosophical divide, and so, therefore, I’m going to abandon all of my principles and agree with you? No one ever says that. They only say that when they want you to shut up and get with their program. And so I would say that this quest for unity, this quest for silencing dissent, it is in that climate that history’s greatest mistakes and crimes are made.
Regardless of whether or not you agree with Obama’s rhetoric or Obama’s program or agenda, let’s keep in mind that I don’t think dissent is the highest form of patriotism, but I think it’s really scary that now we’re hearing that dissent is the lowest form of racism. In a democracy, we’re supposed to have arguments. When you hear people say “no more arguments,” you should flip the safety on your metaphorical rifle. [Emphasis added.]