Burriss: Tolerate social harmony?

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Here's a question for you: how much social harmony can democracy tolerate?

During the past few weeks and months we've seen more and more calls for the suppression of ideas this group or that group finds offensive, harmful or wrong. Indeed, not just calls for suppression, but actual violence by one group against another with conflicting political views.

At every political rally it seems someone is trying to prevent the other side from presenting their views, even getting to the point of pushing and shoving. It makes me wonder, if people are so sure of their position, why are they trying to forcefully prevent others from expressing contrary views?

And a few weeks ago a group of state attorneys general formed an organization to prosecute people who disagree with popular notions of climate change. In other words, a group of highly-placed government officials have decided to prosecute people who propose ideas that may be contrary to accepted orthodoxy.

Somehow I had the idea punishing people who don't believe in commonly accepted attitudes and prevailing views went out with the Spanish Inquisition.

Certainly democracy is a noisy process. But it can still be noisy and civil at the same time. And it is the civility that seems to be sorely lacking. What is also apparently lacking is a willingness to calmly discuss opposing points of view.

It seems those who would stifle debate and discussions are afraid of what others have to say. Otherwise why would they try to prevent debate on public policy issues? Or perhaps they have no faith in the public, and think they must be protected from heretical or unpleasant ideas.

But if they are so afraid a little discussion will change someone's mind, well, just how strong and valid are those ideas in the first place?

Apparently democracy is a difficult, noisy process, with disagreements, confusion, dissension and controversy. Attempts to stifle the noise don't lead to changed minds. It only leads to damage to democracy.

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Larry Burriss
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