I want to explain something that happens in society and culture, not just at the present time, but throughout human history, and not just in the U.S., but in many places. I’ll word this insight in general terms because it is general. I’m not referring to any one point of view or issue.
There’s a controversy in society. You have point of view “B”, which is the majority view, and your neighbor has point of view “A”, an opinion held by a minority of persons. Your neighbor is a minority by opinion, not by race. Society persecutes minority ethnicities, but it also persecutes minority opinions.
One day, they come and take your neighbor away, specifically because he holds minority opinion “A”. By “take away”, I don’t mean anything specific. It could be that your neighbor loses his job, can’t afford his home, and moves. He lost his job because his point of view on a controversial issue in culture was not the majority view. Or maybe your neighbor is sued, or loses his health insurance, or is kicked out of a school, or his business is boycotted and fails, or whatever. Your neighbor suffers a misfortune because his ideas conflicted with the culture.
So they come and “take away” your neighbor because, in this scenario, he has the unpopular point of view on a controversial social issue. How do you feel about this situation? You don’t feel too badly. After all, your neighbor is wrong, so very wrong, on that issue. The proof that your neighbor is wrong is so obvious that it hardly needs to be stated: every reasonable person agrees with point of view “B” and only a few persons hold point of view “A”. So it is certain, by the principle of “the majority rules”, that “A” is a foolish or hateful idea. Serves him right, you say.
Here’s what I say: They’re coming for you next.
Don’t kid yourself. When the culture agrees with your point of view, it’s your fair-weather friend. The culture is not wise; it is not in agreement with you because it progressed in understanding and then had a profound insight. Culture is an unthinking force. And it changes like the weather. A stretch of sunny days will not last. It will rain sooner or later. And sooner or later the culture will turn on you, and majority view “B” will quickly become the minority opinion. Soon after that, “B” will be condemned by the culture as a foolish or hateful idea.
And then they will come for you. You will lose your job or your business. Or you will not be able to continue your education. Or you will be rejected for health insurance. Or whatever. You will suffer a misfortune because now your point of view is a minority opinion rejected by the culture.
So when your neighbor is mistreated because he has a point of view with which you disagree, you should stand up for him. Freedom of speech and freedom of religion are essential to a free society. And that includes the freedom to say something which the majority finds offensive, and the freedom to adhere to an idea — in religion or society or politics or science or whatever — which the majority has decided is a grave error.
“I disapprove of what you say, but I will defend to the death your right to say it.” — Evelyn Beatrice Hall (explaining Voltaire’s attitude toward controversy)