Freedom of Speech and How it Applies to Relationships

It’s no secret that the New York Times is my main news source, but you may be surprised to know that my favorite op-ed columnists are moderate conservatives, Bret Stephens and David Brooks. I don’t necessarily agree with their politics, but they’re sober, thoughtful and logical writers who speak for a healthy middle ground that often gets lost in political discussions.

Stephens, in particular, has been on fire ever since the Times hired him last year – taking on both the far right and far left in equal measures. The address he gave to the University of Michigan in February, entitled “Free Speech and the Necessity of Discomfort” might be the best summation of my own feelings on the subject.

In it, he explores a subject near and dear to my liberal heart – the perpetual, problematic, embarrassing outrage by the far left over anything it doesn’t like. I’ve watched it happen to most of my ideological thought leaders: Stephen Colbert, Sam Harris, Bill Maher and Andrew Sullivan. All are thoughtful liberal-thinking pundits who have – at one time or another – been labeled racist or sexist for nothing more than making a joke, speaking an uncomfortable biological truth, or defending others rights to do so.

On the surface, this has nothing to do with dating and relationships, but, in fact, everything has to do with dating and relationships. Life is about relationships. Listening to others. Trying to understand their perspectives. Looking for common ground. Seeing the good in others instead of assuming that any disagreement is tantamount to war.

Life is about relationships. Listening to others. Trying to understand their perspectives. Looking for common ground.

Ready for Lasting Love?
Ready for Lasting Love?

For a long time, I dismissed people who were hostile to women, gays, blacks, Muslims, Jews, etc – by saying, “It is not intolerant to be intolerant of intolerance.” I still believe that we should not tolerate intolerance. But recently, the left has been blazing its own trail of intolerance by turning its allies into enemies – witness the recent exchange between Sam Harris and Ezra Klein.

In it, Harris defended another sociologist’s right to report data that intimates that there may be IQ differences between races. And because Harris defends this sociologist’s right to see where the data leads – even if the result is uncomfortable – Klein smears Harris as a racist himself – a label that’s nearly impossible to wash away once the accusation has been leveled. This is happening everywhere and the effects are chilling. It’s why I passed up an opportunity to go on CNN to talk about #MeToo. Anything I say to defend men like myself is potential fuel for someone who wants to label me as part of the problem.

“Either agree with us in lockstep or shut up!” seems to be the party line. That’s no good.

Says Stephens in his Michigan address: “The answer to a politics of right-wing illiberalism is not a politics of left-wing illiberalism. It is a politics of liberalism, period. This is politics that believes in the virtues of openness, reason, toleration, dissent, second-guessing, respectful but robust debate, individual conscience and dignity, a sense of decency and also a sense of humor. In a word, Enlightenment. It’s a capacious politics, with plenty of room for the editorials of, say, The New York Times and those of The Wall Street Journal. And it is an uncomfortable politics, because it requires that each side recognize the rights and legitimacy, and perhaps even the value, of the other.”

Like Harris, I’m a pragmatic liberal who, above all, values truth and rational debate. For the most part, this blog and the comments reflect that. But every once in awhile you’ll notice women commenters dismissing the views of male commenters, male commenters dismissing the views of female commenters, and both sides occasionally attacking me as if I’m driven by ideology rather than truth. This is what I want to call attention to. This is what I’m trying to eradicate.

We will never get anywhere as a country if we can’t acknowledge uncomfortable truths.

We will never get anywhere as a country if we can’t acknowledge uncomfortable truths.

Guns DO kill people. Liberals ARE turning allies into enemies. Radical Muslims DO hold beliefs including stoning for adultery and apostasy. Trump IS a liar. Men and women ARE different.


It’s not that we can’t make good faith arguments as to why the 2nd amendment is important, liberals are consistently on the side of human rights, many Muslims (especially in the US) don’t have radical beliefs, Trump appeals to many people with his MAGA rhetoric, and men and women share more in common than they have different.

But if we can’t listen to both sides of the argument; if, just by acknowledging the truth of the other side, you’re a heretic, well, it says a lot about what ails our society. I would hope that my regular readers will read the Bret Stephens piece and won’t give me any grief for writing this piece, but if you cherry pick something in this piece that triggers you and use it as an attack on my character, guess what?

You’re the reason I felt compelled to write this at all.

Your thoughts, below, are greatly appreciated.