When Dissent Becomes High Crimes and Misdemeanors
It didn't take long for us to get past the Disney level moment of "love trumps all," did it?
Within two days, numerous supporters of the Obergefell majority opinion began hammering it over the head of those who disagreed in rapid fashion. Judge Richard Posner decried Chief Justice Roberts' dissenting opinion as "heartless." A writer at the Daily Beast called the four dissenting opinions "treason." Patheos--a place I have no respect for on the Web--pronounced "Evangelicals" as lunatic hacks who made decisions flying in the face of reason. On the other side of the debate, bloggers decried the majority as a moot victory for a progress towards totalitarianism. People began decrying the bastion of american jurisprudence we call the High Court as nothing more than a "supra-legislature."
The latest offense celebre debacle, the Confederate Battle Flag, has taken on a new level of lunacy. Apple, in the wake of the new outcry for removal of all "stars and bars," banned the Confederate Flag in all apps on the App store. Critics called for the removal of "Gone With the Wind" from public screenings because of its "racist history." The mere display of this Civil War relic is now akin to the "fighting words" so often incorrectly attributed as law in the Chaplinsky opinion.
On my Facebook feed--the world's virtual town square--the remarks over the weekend ranged in the same spectacle. Conservatives blamed the entire mess on "the lawyers," stating the divorce bar had a huge hand in making same sex marriage legal. The "progressive" world used different tactics--some simply began with a resounding cry of "SUCK IT BIGOT" all the way down to the most disturbing line thrown out this weekend: "Dissenters must be silenced...this is what progress looks like."
I am reminded after the analysis and heavy handed backlash of this weekend of a major line in Chief Justice Roberts' dissenting opinion in Obergefell: "Perhaps the most discouraging aspect of today’s decision is the extent to which the majority feels compelled to sully those on the other side of the debate." This doesn't just apply to these two areas, it applies to all debates over every issue these days. If you choose to be on the contrarian side to that which is the newest and greatest cause of attention, you are Wrong, and must be silenced.
There used to be a day where people could respectfully disagree on opinions. Now that time is gone, replaced with a world where every remark by people smacks of "privilege" and a respectful expression of opinion to another runs the risk of having you labeled an "intolerant bigot." If you are one of the same "intolerant bigots" that runs afoul of the outrage mob, you run the risk of losing your job. People are taking screenshots of social media posts where others express dissent, finding their employers, and telephoning them with these posts, encouraging the employer to fire the individual in question who expresses dissent. Those who are Wrong in the eyes of the public can even be forced to resign from their job over misconstrued remarks used for the sake of division.
Those who buy into the mindset of silencing dissent need to remember our nation's history. Dissent was what made America--we did not agree with British rule, and therefore founded our own nation. Dissent is what made marriage equality possible--we felt everyone should be allowed to marry as they choose, and worked until it happened. Dissent gave us many of the advances we have in modern society--people were not happy with "the way it's always been," and worked to find a way to make it better.
It is reasons like these that we need to not silence dissent. We need to allow it, even if the majority feels the need to speak up and tell the Other they are Wrong in Life or Wrong on the Internet. And for goodness' sake, please make sure you tell them they are Wrong respectfully.