By Carmen Galvan
I find it ironic that our nation, which calls itself tolerant and promotes freedom of expression, seems to be slowly evolving into stricter censorship of speech and literature in an effort to create and maintain a more complacent society.
Evidence of this is found everywhere: Media outlets must always be politically correct in order to avoid negative consequences, classic pieces of literature are being revised in order to fit society’s “tolerance” principle and even our representatives in government must adhere to the beliefs of the majority to avoid conflict.
But this censorship has even reached the individual members of society, myself included.
I often find myself rewording sentences and withholding opinions in fear of offending those around me.
And I wonder how much of society’s true, diverse character has been hidden behind the fear of freely expressing personal beliefs and morals.
What have we missed out on and what thoughts have remained inside a person’s head instead of entering the public sphere for discussion.
I believe the problem lies with us. Somewhere between the American Revolution and today, Americans became sensitive to criticism and easily offended by even the most innocent of comments.
But why did this happen?
Perhaps it is that America’s standards of tolerance and respect have gone terribly awry; perhaps we desire to be so tolerant of others’ cultural, spiritual and personal beliefs that we restrain our own in the fear of offending theirs.
Another reason may stem from the need for acceptance, and those who wish to be accepted may think that expressing true opinions could be seen as a cause for anger and possible alienation.
Yet while the cause is uncertain, the effect is undeniable. We have become so afraid of confrontation that we are unwilling to stand up for our beliefs, which is, in a way, abusing our free will.
This fear of confrontation also fails to help society. While tolerance may seem to unite a community as one, it actually just establishes a lethargic state of contented individuals with no real mind of their own.
The expression of personal beliefs exposes others to new thoughts and opinions, and while disagreement is expected, so is a discussion that will strengthen the bonds of community by a true connection and deeper understanding of others.
It is simply important to remember that our society cannot be expected to develop into a stronger community by extreme tolerance, only by disagreement and discussion.
However, such a discussion requires a willingness to receive criticism and a willingness to acknowledge and discern a different viewpoint.
It is not necessary to adopt it in order to be tolerant, but it is important to acknowledge and respect it as a belief different than your own with just as much value. And it is my belief that Americans should not fear how our written or spoken beliefs will offend others because they are different.
Americans should embrace our heritage of freedom and unconditional acceptance; we should begin using our First Amendment rights for the strength and betterment of our nation.
Carmen Galvan is a junior public relations major from Baytown and the assistant city editor for the Lariat.