I’m a huge fan of the Hardcore History and History on Fire podcasts so I was excited when I saw that the hosts, Dan Carlin and Danielle Bolelli respectively, posted a conversation they recently had. The two discussed several things including modern political discourse.
One thing Dan said really resonated with me. He noted that he remembers a time when certain concepts, such as support for freedom of speech, were so close to universal in the United States that you could take them for granted in a political discussion and how he has a difficult time operating in an environment where that is no longer the case. I’m not a very old man but even in my relatively short life I’ve seen some dramatic shifts in political discourse. When I was in college certain near universals still existed including support for freedom of speech (although that was dying) and due process (which was also beginning to die). While an individual may not actually have believed in those concepts, they almost always, especially if they were a politician, paid lip service to them. Today’s world is a different one. Consider this fiasco that just went down here in Minnesota:
ST. PAUL, Minn. — A Minnesota House committee has passed a proposed “red flag” law that would allow families and police to get court orders to temporarily remove guns from people judged to be an imminent danger to themselves or others.
Due process, at one time, meant that an individual was only punished after a trial. Today due process isn’t even paid lip service. Rather legislation, of which this is just the latest example (civil forfeiture probably remains the most overt example), blatantly violates the concept of due process. What’s fascinating though is that these violation of due process aren’t met with widespread opposition. Gun owners are opposing this instance for obvious reasons but most people seem to either not care or, worse yet, enthusiastically support it.
I’ve even seen comments from professors who have reported surprise that students have expressed disagreement with the idea that authoritarianism is bad. Even my short life witnessed a time when the concept of authoritarianism was almost universally reviled (if not necessarily in practice, at least in words) here in the United States. Now support for authoritarianism is growing on both sides of the political spectrum.
I make no effort to hide my disgust with politics. Part of my disgust stems from the fact that many previously near universally supported concepts such as freedom of speech are no longer near universal. Expressing support for such concepts in today’s political environment oftentimes leads not just to disagreement but to a complete breakdown of civility (for example, depending on the other person’s political views, you might find yourself being labeled a fascist or a communist). Trying to have a reasoned debate in an environment where no ground rules exist most people appear disinterested in either being civility or establishing ground rules is, frankly, impossible.