Truth and the 'Swaddled Generation'

Washington Post opinion writer Kathleen Parker recently coined the term “Swaddled Generation” when discussing the modern liberal’s absurd obsession with silencing dissenting voices in the name of protecting fragile minds. She wrote:

It seems that mostly conservative sites and writers are concerned with the increasingly draconian suppression of free speech on college campuses. But then, it is mostly conservative writers and speakers who are treated as though they’re bringing the Ebola virus rather than contrarian ideas to the sensitive ears of what we may as well name the “Swaddled Generation.”

Parker was making reference to the numerous incidents we have seen of conservative voices being shut down because of their opinions on a variety of topics. She mentions the silencing of Christina Hoff Sommers of the American Enterprise Institute for daring to challenge the “feminist code.” She mentions former secretary of state Condoleezza Rice who had to withdraw from delivering the commencement speech at Rutgers University after heavy protests. Also, she recounts Brandeis University shamefully canceling its tribute to Ayaan Hirsi Ali, the heroic woman who has lifted her voice to denounce the abuse of women within Islam.

Liberal commentator Kirsten Powers has a new book (The Silencing: How the Left Is Killing Free Speech) dealing with the issue and, ironically, has received some of the same treatment for daring to call out her own.

Parker appropriately mocked the so-called “safe space” created at Georgetown University to protect these “sensitive flowers” from the horrors of hearing conservative views. Further, anyone who dares express any views falling outside of accepted liberal doctrine is to be “condemned as a ‘hater,’” wrote Parker, who concluded, “Now there’s a winning debate argument. If you’re 5.”

Funny. But also true. It actually hits on the essence of the problem she describes: immaturity. Not an immature intellect; notice many of these events usually happen in the best universities. They have mature intellects. What they lack is a mature conscience.

Thomas Merton once wrote:

The immature conscience is one that bases its judgments partly, or even entirely, on the way other people seem to be disposed toward its decisions. The good is what is admired or accepted by the people it lives with. The evil is what irritates or upsets them. Even when the immature conscience is not entirely dominated by people outside itself, it nevertheless acts only as a representative of some other conscience. The immature conscience is not its own master. It is merely the delegate of the conscience of another person, or of a group, or of a party, or of a social class, or of a nation or of a race. Therefore it does not make real moral decisions of its own, it simply parrots the decisions of others. It does not make judgments of its own, it merely “conforms” to the party line. It does not really have motives or intentions of its own. Or if it does, it wrecks them by twisting and rationalizing them to fit the intentions of another.

We would be hard pressed to express it better. It is true that the immature conscience per se has no political affiliation, but as we have seen, today the immature liberal conscience has reached epidemic proportions. And though I am glad a few have begun to wake up, the problem is still prevalent and worrisome for freedom and liberty.

Having identified the problem, as Ms. Parker has done by giving us the term “the Swaddled Generation,” thoughts turn to what we can do about it. To tackle that question, we must ask, “How did we get here?”

This will not be easy for liberals to answer, because it will require their elite to take a good look in the mirror. You see, this “Swaddled Generation” did not come out of nowhere. These “children” have “parents” who have shaped them into what they are today. The liberal elites, the radical professors, and other liberal thinkers are those “parents.” These surrogate “parents” have failed to encourage the exercise necessary for the liberal conscience to develop appropriately.

The culprits are not only in academia. Liberal journalism has been completely exposed, to the point of fabricating stories to attack conservatives. The treatment of Sarah Palin was perhaps the apex of their contempt (one hopes), but multiple volumes could be written of their affirmation of the immature conscience. 

Hollywood. Need I say more? The mocking of conservative voices has been perhaps the left’s most powerful tool, but one that encourages the sort of lazy, immature non-analysis typical of the “Swaddled Generation.” This has no doubt contributed to the problem by discouraging the critical thinking necessary when one considers others with respect and value instead of seeing them as a punchline.

The solution, therefore, starts not with the “Swaddled Generation” but with the enabling generation before them. When liberal professors start standing to debate conservative thinkers with respect when they come to speak, instead of cowering behind immature protestors, we may start to see the tide shift.

When journalists take pride in getting their experience covering world events, instead of at a Democrat presidential campaign; when they stop asking “gotcha questions” of any Republican candidate; when they start treating conservative women with respect; when they recognize their own biases and fight against them to challenge their own presuppositions, perhaps we can start to see the change needed.

When they seek and thirst after truth again, when they value reality more than popularity, when they value liberty above power, then they will start to grow proper consciences again -- a mature conscience that seeks after truth, whatever the outcome. We must regain the old adage that “it is truth that makes us free.”  This is true, whatever our political affiliation.

Truth is what unites us. And everyone knows we are in desperate need of that.

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