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While conversing with an old friend from Mexico, she mentioned that travel is more dangerous than it was when she first made the (legal) border crossing. “Men with guns” now ride the bus with her.
Of course, a conservative Texan wouldn’t be uneasy around “men with guns” so long as they were good responsible men with guns. It is generally easy to distinguish someone who carries for protection versus a gangster thug who wants everyone around him to feel threatened. But such a distinction between lawful gun carriers and dangerous criminals doesn’t occur to someone living where only criminals carry weapons.
Where weapons are always criminal, they always seem dangerous. Ideas are like that.
Under totalitarian governments, “men with ideas” is another loaded phrase. Men with ideas cause trouble. They attract the attention of dangerous officials and can get anyone who tolerates them brought under suspicion. Like one tries to ignore a criminal with a gun, one tries to avoid a criminal with unsanctioned politics.
As with the freedom to carry weapons, the key to freedom of expression is normality. “Why is he dangerous? He is just like everybody else.” Common ideas typically do not frighten. The rarer a significant idea or other expression becomes, the more one must risk to share it.
Per the old curse, we live in interesting times. Ideas and words used frequently by half of the people in Western countries and most people worldwide despite this frequency attract accusations of “homophobia,” “Islamaphobia,” racism, sexism, and whatnot. There are concerted efforts to bully majority beliefs into silence, at which point speaking them requires ever more courage. Media refuse to include such beliefs and thereby warp perceptions of frequency and normality.
Be bold. Continue to express your true beliefs, using whatever words and references you think appropriate. Because to accept silence increases the burden of resistance on yourself and others… until one day you too might fear men with ideas.