“Opinions are like armpits … we all have them but think only ours don’t stink!” Author unknown.
No reasonable person would deny that we live in historically strange and contentious times. Many norms established and maintained for generations in America have been torn away, root and branch.
Philosophers through the ages have reminded us that the only constant in life is change. That said, I know I am not alone in believing the speed of change has accelerated, especially in the last decade. For me, one of the most troubling changes in the last few years has been people’s lack of willingness to express their opinions.
It seemed to start with social media, where ostracizing those with whom you disagreed became the rule rather than an exception. The virtual insulation provided by hosts like Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and others, allowed people to practice a version of online road rage where, often anonymously, they could savage their opponents without consequences of face-to-face encounters.
Online donnybrooks soon gave birth to a wholly new phenomenon: being “canceled.” This involves involuntary removal from all social media platforms in one fell swoop. Again, the offense was opinions outside some new “approved norm,” one whose definitions remain elusive to this day. I suspect that, more often than not, political differences are at the core of this issue.
George Bernard Shaw wrote: “Everyone has a right to have his own opinion given that it coincides with ours.” His words seem particularly prescient.
Of course, every American should know that our Constitution protects the expression of our opinions. But what many fail to understand is, the First Amendment was designed to —among other things— protect opinions with which we specifically disagree.
The framers of our Constitution were passionate in their belief that government has no rightful jurisdiction over the opinions of its citizens. Yet in these strange times, our government has recently established a “Disinformation Governance Board,” whose mission is to combat “misinformation,” presumably in the form of expressed opinions our betters have deemed flawed. Say what?
This new division of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security is eerily reminiscent of the Ministry of Truth in George Orwell’s “1984.” This was a tool allowing one political party to deem which truth was, in fact, “correct” and force adherence in opinions and deeds.
The term “politically correct” was borne out of the 1930’s pre-World War II jargon attributed by the New York Times to Germany’s Nazi Party who were “(g)ranting reporting permits ‘only to pure “Aryans” whose opinions are politically correct.’” We’re not there — yet.
Where all this hits home is — well — at home. Family members have declared that if I supported “X” candidate or certain disapproved opinions, I was no longer welcome in their home or, more dramatically, in their lives. Looking in the mirror I can honestly say I do not practice this type of histrionics. I welcome diversity of thought, opinion and political persuasion. I find it exciting, challenging.
I remember family arguments involving politics of the day, religion, gossip, at times getting heated. But never, as in not ever, did we question our love and devotion to one another. That would be, well, insane!
Of course, we should all resist the temptation to believe we are being persecuted whenever someone disagrees with us. Yet a difference of opinion today marks you with a scarlet letter. Conform or else.
I take comfort in quotes like that of Clarence Darrow: “The world is made up for the most part of morons and natural tyrants, sure of themselves, strong in their own opinions, never doubting anything.”
In appreciation of the humorous point of view of Mark Twain, “I am not one of those who in expressing opinions confine themselves to facts.”
Opinions are just that — how you think or feel about any subject at hand. Right, wrong, mostly subjective. But for all that’s holy, we must return to the day when we all had the personal courage to voice our opinions.
Quoting Nelson Mandela, “I learned that courage was not the absence of fear, but the triumph over it. The brave man is not he who does not feel afraid, but he who conquers that fear.”
With Mandela’s call to bravery as an inspiration, I encourage everyone to speak up, speak out and embrace the joy of being an individual. Use the Golden Rule as a guide: Treat others as you wish to be treated.
Disagreements are a constant, an inevitable happenstance. If you wish to express yourself without being clobbered, be gracious with those who share opposite points of view. Remember the armpit analogy; hold your nose when needed and listen.
I invite your opinions regarding mine.
The opinions expressed above belong solely to the author and do not represent the views of the Boulder City Review. They have been edited solely for grammar, spelling and style, and have not been checked for accuracy of the viewpoints.
Ron Russ is a Los Angeles transplant, living in and loving Boulder City since 2020. His career in commercial broadcasting spanned more than four decades including a brief stint as the announcer for Fox’s short-lived “The Chevy Chase Show.” In another lifetime Ron performed stand-up comedy in Los Angeles. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.