A liberal man made a political statement that offended me. It has destroyed my life. I can’t function normally because of the haunting memory of this encounter. I need counseling, pronto. Perhaps I need a hug. Oh, how terrible, how awful.

Not really. In fact, I truly don’t care about what others think of me or say about me and that has never changed. My youth was punctuated with both pleasant and unpleasant experiences. Both were necessary for my proper development. There was no counseling, no running to anyone else for solace. And it seems to me that having grown up in an age where self-assuredness and independent thinking were the norm, I am much the better for it now.

Today’s youth become upset over the most inane, trivial things. And nowhere is this truer than on college campuses. Sadly, because of this catering to their every fabricated need, our young people have lost any degree of self-assurance. Of course not all students have drank the Kool-Aid, but it seems the majority certainly have.

It’s plain, in view of how students react to the slightest hint of conflict, that our society has done a grievous disservice to our young people. They deserve better than this.

Scary visit

Students at University of Connecticut recently got their leotards in a bunch, to borrow a phrase from Todd Starnes, because the college allowed conservative author Ben Shapiro to speak at the college.

Shapiro’s visit was fraught with needless restrictions. The college prohibited large numbers of people from attending Shapiro’s presentation. Attendance was limited to only those wearing special wristbands, something very odd, it seems to me. Shapiro later announced that up to 700 members of the public wanted to hear him speak, but university officials prohibited their attendance. Mind you, many of these folks were taxpayers who had every right to listen to speakers at their state college.

Speaking to conservative commentator Laura Ingraham, Shapiro said that the college’s head diversity officer (there were no “diversity officers” when I was taking courses at UMaine) said Shapiro’s presentation could be “hurtful” to some students and therefore, the college was prepared to provide counseling to those who were traumatized.

Traumatized by a speaker? That’s a hard one to swallow.

Shapiro’s response to this was well-thought and to the point. “If you actually have to seek mental health counseling because you hear that I’m coming to campus, you probably need to seek mental health counseling for a number of other issues that you have.”

For the majority of Americans, this “sissification” of our colleges and universities only serves to underscore the deep decline of objective thinking and, along with that, any sense of independence or self respect.

So how did this sort of thing happen in the first place?

Well, it happened one step at a time. And now it has reached the point where liberal thinking permeates our society. Now, people who espouse differing opinions are branded as pariahs. Whatever happened to the free arena of the public square? Where is the soapbox for the non-politically correct to stand and proclaim their views?

Colleges were once the place to go to hear people espouse diverse views. Debates were common. Listening to debates was a healthy experience because it exposed people to other ways of thinking. It was up to the listener to decide if the views presented were acceptable or not. That’s called using your brain. Those who objected or disagreed with one side or the other might hiss and boo, but they surely didn’t run to safe places, nor did they need counseling.

Guest speakers, too, brought new ideas, new thoughts to audiences. Some of these new ideas became part of the larger compendium of thought and, in doing so, enriched not only those listening, but also the country at large. And of course, those who didn’t like the speaker were not compelled to listen. It was always a matter of choice.

But today, new or opposing viewpoints are often banned from college campuses. And that is just the opposite of how things should work. People from all walks of life, who hold varying viewpoints, must not be censored.

Instead, creative thought should flourish. Opposite viewpoints are as important as those thoughts that we agree with. If it weren’t for the bad, the negative, we would not appreciate the good and the positive.

Hopefully, some time in the future, college campuses will once again become the bastion of free thought. And that can’t happen soon enough.

Tom Seymour is a freelance magazine and newspaper writer, book author, naturalist and forager. He lives in Waldo.