Chou: A tolerant society requires open discourse

Curtis Chou, Columnist

I am not quite sure when I started to get this feeling. A lot of attention recently has been devoted to the exploration of the millennial generation’s ideological leanings and rightfully so. All of us are now at that stage where the happenings in the political amphitheater resonate strongly with us because for the first time, we can understand how policies will affect us. We are the next great voting bloc.

But when did this feeling become so prevalent in my mind? The nagging perception that the more society talks about expanding discourse and tolerance for free thinking, the less discourse and tolerance we get. It is a widely known fact that millennials skew heavily to the political left, the “progressive” party. I have always known that. You have always known that. For a long time, I have just assumed that it was the way it was. There was little conservatives could do about it, and, from a societal standpoint, there was probably little reason for it to change. Of course, in hindsight, I am probably wrong on both fronts.

So I thought nothing of it when I entered Northwestern. I was confident in my beliefs and generally held onto the principles I brought to campus. I thought my biggest takeaway would be several anecdotes that I can amuse or anger my father with when I returned home to the drone of Fox News.

Instead, I have grown increasingly agitated over the course of my years here with the monotony of thought dominating political discourse. By this I refer to overall American society, but a college campus is equally culpable, perhaps more so.

Where are the people who can stand up and challenge mainstream thought? Where have they gone? Has the deafening criticism from the politically correct chased them off?

I occasionally find well-spoken men and women with differing views sneaking around in the comment sections of mainstream media platforms, but too often they are beaten down with generalizations, insults and apathetic labels. Surely, if you suggest that women take precautions to avoid potentially dangerous situations at night, you must be a victim blamer. If you are a gun rights advocate, you must not care about the safety of our children. If you believe that the Supreme Court was in the right to strike down Section 4 of the Voting Rights Act, which compelled certain states to seek federal approval for any changes to their voting laws, you are either a racist or a bigot.

I could go on.

I admit this is turning into a small rant, but I promise you, it is not an attack on the left. It is a reaction to what I have seen around campus and from mainstream news sources. I have read it in The Daily. I have heard it in the classrooms. I have seen it in our University’s actions and our president’s statements. There is an ideology that guides thought on campus and sometimes it does not represent the feelings of all students.

I am not saying that that is bad. I simply want us as a campus and a society to move to a point where level heads prevail and meaningful discussion can be had before judgments are made. The world is too vast and its denizens too distinct to have it any other way.

I want it to be OK to say Donald Sterling’s ownership of the Clippers shouldn’t have been taken away because of his careless statements. I want it to be OK to support the right of self-determination for the Israeli people while disagreeing with the actions of their central government in Gaza.

I know I have not given you all your due. Although the millennial generation is more liberal than other generations at a similar point in their lives, we are not all the same. Like it or not, the time will come when our generation will shape the policies that move our country forward. If we are to make a more tolerant society, let us stop and listen. Consider for a moment what the person next to you is thinking. If after you do so, your position remains your own, I applaud you. Perhaps you now know yourself a little bit better.

Curtis Chou is a Communication senior. He can be reached at [email protected]. If you want to respond publicly to this column, send a Letter to the Editor to [email protected].