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I’ve been engaged in a pair of interesting conversations lately with people whose views are, shall we say, somewhere to the left of my own — and yes, I know that’s a pretty big crowd — about the meanings of words. Specifically, we’ve been talking about “sex” and “violence.”
The left is in the process of redefining sex to mean something other, something broader and less precise, than male or female. They do this by pointing to differences in the way human sexual traits are distributed, claiming that abnormal combinations of traits represent new sexes, rather than merely variations in distribution. (They also cite biological abnormalities, the rare genetic mutations that cause some people to actually be sexually ambiguous in their physiology.)
There’s a point to this redefinition. By stirring up mud and obscuring what we all pretty well know about normal sexual distinctions, they can marginalize those distinctions. That’s important, because their goal is to say that all differences of behavior and situation are the result of social constructs, arbitrary rules made up (by men) to achieve a social objective (the subjugation of women). Once biology is rejected, all that remains is injustice.
(Of course, injustice can occur in spite of biology, and routinely does. But it’s easier to find injustice everywhere if we rule out a biological basis for behavior.)
Something similar is going on with the word “violence.” The left would like it to be expanded to include the expression of ideas that make some people uncomfortable. Once again, medical science is pressed into service, in this case, to demonstrate that people experience real physiological responses to stress — including stress caused by hearing ideas they don’t like.
Since stress is bad for us, it follows — in the left’s reasoning — that ideas that elicit a stress response might also be labeled violence, and so either prevented or, as in the case of the hoodlums currently rioting in the streets of Seattle and Portland, met with actual, physical violence. And so Antifa argues that the real physical violence it uses each night to destroy property and hurt people is simply a justifiable response to what it claims are bad ideas coming from the other side.
“Words are violence” justifies hurting people who say things you don’t like, and that’s exactly what we’re seeing.
I mentioned “marriage” in the title because redefining marriage was an early goal — funny how long ago that seems — of the left’s redefinition efforts. It was important that the word be redefined, because the left believed (and was correct in that belief) that, by applying the word to relationships to which it had not previously been applied, the way we thought about those relationships would change. That’s why achieving the legal status of marriage was inadequate: the word itself, with its rich associations, had to be roped into service as well.
Of the three, the equation of speech and violence is particularly pernicious and destructive. Our greatest right, our most fundamental right, is of conscience — the right to believe what we wish and to hold those beliefs openly. The left’s insistence that speech is violence is an effort to justify restricting our speech, and ultimately to restrict what we can believe and express. One doesn’t have to have read Orwell to see how this works.
Speech is not violence. Speak. Don’t surrender your right to conscience and free expression — even if you believe things that some people don’t like.Published in