Since the American Revolution, America has shown the highest level of human tolerance for dissenting views in world history.
Dissenting views are generally defined as views of the numerical minority of people in a country or voices that speak against the government.
This high level of tolerance is probably directly attributed to the courage of the signers of the Declaration of Independence. Each of these Founding Fathers signed their own execution warrants by penning their names to that document. They knew the consequences of speaking out against the King; death by hanging. Period.
The Constitution was written a few years later after divine inspiration from our Creator. It encapsulated the natural right of humans to dissent in the very first amendment to the Constitution.
Some folks would disagree with this pleasant description of America; particularly in today’s partisan climate boosted by technology and social media.
I have had my doubts as well. However, after watching a documentary about three men, one in the Soviet Union, one in the 1970’s Uganda, and the other in Libya, I was reminded of what unfettered intolerance for dissent can lead to.
The leader of the crown jewel of communism, Joseph Stalin, spent most of his days after the suicide of his wife alone in his enormous office with his housekeeper/mistress signing death warrants, arrest orders, and Siberian exile orders. These victims were people who dissented in their speech against the government, were accused of such, or simply may have been capable of speaking out in the future.
The next example comes from Northern Africa in the late 1960’s. People around the world were enamored by the young dashing Muammar Gaddafi as he took power in Libya. Yet, over the next four decades, he would spiral into a world of absolute isolation, killing or imprisoning all opposition, and completely plundering the oil rich nation, leaving millions of people in poverty.
Lastly, we look to the wealthy nation of Uganda in the early 1970’s. Military commander Idi Amin Dada would take power by force and ruin the country economically, socially, and globally. The towering man, who hid his crimes through laughter and jokes, would murder millions including one his own wives. His cruelty combined with his extreme paranoia would even lead him to place the most notorious political prison right next to his living compound. He would routinely go to the prison himself to abuse and kill political victims himself.
Yes, these are extreme examples of intolerance for dissent in society. But, it should serve as a reminder of how fortunate Americans are to dissent freely in society.
American history also provides examples of governmental intolerance of dissent. This has happened briefly, mostly during times of war.
Today, American society protects the informed, ignorant, conservative, liberal, and all that lies in between.
America is also bitterly divided. However, unlike any other civilizations in world history, we can be divided without the fear of the outbreak of domestic war.
While we do not face the current prospect of civil war, the tone of our disagreements could be “stepped up a notch.”
Even though a person has a right to use words like “stupid”, “idiotic”, and “worthless” in their outpouring of ideas, this right does not necessarily need to be exercised. Use of such speech can undermine an otherwise well thought out and persuasive argument. It also shows an abundant lack of class.
While it may be difficult at times, we can disagree with being disagreeable.
Whether we are in the dissent or not, may we always have the right to freely dissent in the United States. Our Founding Fathers wanted this experiment of a Constitutional Republic to tolerate the views of dissenting people.
We must continue to be vigilant in making their original vision of protecting dissenting voices a reality for generations to come.