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Ever since I began following politics and campus culture there have been fewer people I have found to be more iconic than the protester the internet has called "Trigglypuff."
I don't want to belabor the issue any more than it already has been; rather I want to focus on healing the deep divide that has happened across society typified in a basic sense by a sort of "left vs. right" paradigm.
The focus on trying to stop "hate speech" from entering the academic environment has expanded, for some people, into trying to prevent differing points of view from being heard in the first place.
I recall completing my college program in 2010 in an atmosphere of relative sanity and mutual respect. People were free to express their perspectives and free to disagree with one another. Our professors tended to remain as objective as humanly possible and allow an organic debate to develop while providing a context for the given topic.
We didn't need "hate speech" rules in order to understand how to respect one another's differences. If someone said something to which another student took offense, we would simply talk about and deal with it directly and move on together as a class.
Indeed, being able to hear each other out and even dare to be offended tended to strengthen the moral and sense of mutual respect between students and faculty.
Spirited debating seems to be a skill and practice that is less tolerated in today's academic world by virtue of the fact that differences of opinion have become less and less palatable in a world seemingly split right down the middle politically, socially, and culturally.
One helpful thing I remember doing in one class was being able to argue both sides of any given issue. For example, I found myself arguing both for and against capital punishment during one session.
Doing an exercise like this for a few different issues can really help put life into perspective. When working with clients I try to take what I learned in these environments and help apply them to our daily lives as well.
When dealing with interpersonal conflicts it can be really useful to try and take on the other person's point of view and suspend our own preconceived notions, even for a short period of time.
It is the inability and unwillingness to do this that causes people to become increasingly polarized and prone to using terms like "hate speech" in order to silence and invalidate different beliefs and ideas before they are even allowed to be expressed.
If we take a look at the term hate speech in its most literal form, we start to realize that most ideas that are being expressed are generally not motivated by hate; they are simply thoughts and perspectives that the speaker presently identifies with and wishes to put forth into the marketplace ideas.
True hate speech is very literal in its expression: "I hate [group X] because of [reason Y]...." Generally speaking, true hate speech does not garner much of an audience as the vast majority of people will not identify with such a narrow, exclusive, and inherently negative belief system.
For instance, Hitler is a classic example of someone who used genuine hate speech in order to rally people to his cause. Studying history clearly shows that any idea born out of hatred for another group is doomed to create disaster and suffering for all concerned, literally hell on Earth.
The good news is that people who genuinely express this type of speech in the modern era do not get much of a foothold at all as we generally recognize the absurdity of such ideas and pay them no mind.
What seems to be happening in many circles is that the lines of what constitutes speech motivated by genuine hatred and animosity are getting conflated with ideas that simply happen to be different.
Using labels like "hate speech" beyond their scope can become a means to attempt to censor and quash free speech, debate, and a coming together of opposing views in order to find common ground.
What is really needed is to focus on mutual love, respect, and common decency between people at different ends of the belief spectrum. The world need not be further divided than it already is; indeed the future of humanity depends upon us being able to come together in a meaningful way. The campus and the world at large needs more "love speech," or at the very least the patience to come together and learn from one another.