July 12, 2016

The Power of Freethought

Black Lives Matter Sign - Minneapolis Protest

Freethinkers don't have superpowers or anything, but we are capable of doing some pretty cool things. Some of these things seem to be quite rare among people these days. In this brief post, I'll share a timely example of the sort of thing I have in mind.

First, I am capable of supporting some of the stated goals of the Black Lives Matter movement, including those concerned with the appalling manner in which some police officers brutalize the very citizens there are supposed to protect. By itself, this is far from extraordinary. Many people on the political left do this, and relatively few would be mistaken for freethinkers of any sort. Second, I am capable of criticizing some aspects of the movement, including its name and some of the tactics employed. By itself, this would also be unremarkable. Many people on the political right do this, and relatively few of them would be mistaken for freethinkers.

Here is where things get interesting. I am capable of doing both of these things at the same time. That is, I can support some of the stated goals of the Black Lives Matter movement while simultaneously criticizing other aspects of the movement. I realize that doing so violates all sorts of narratives; however, these are not my narratives, and I am not inclined to comply with them.

And so, I can do things like applaud how Black Lives Matter has prompted a national discussion about how police interact with their communities while finding their interruptions of political rallies or repeated traffic blocking to be counterproductive. I can value the manner in which they have helped to call attention to the plight of Black men who have been subjected to police brutality while regarding much of their rhetoric as needlessly divisive and even racist at times. I can respect their unwavering commitment to an agenda in which they evidently believe even as I question their decision to resume their protests so soon after the murders in Dallas.

My reward for exercising this capability is that I am called a "terrorist sympathizer" by some on the right and a "racist" by many on the left. And of course, nearly everybody agrees that I "just don't get it" even though they disagree as to whether that is because of my "White privilege" or my "liberal brainwashing." But as far as I am concerned, this is a small price to pay for being willing to think critically and refuse to buy into flawed narratives. I remain grateful for the power of freethought.
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