TRIGGER WARNING: the following article deals with anchor babies, abortion, and other topics that healthy adults should be able to deal with.
No, when we said beware the trigger police we don’t mean police officers with their fingers on the trigger running around looking to shoot someone with their hands up. Sadly, in this case we mean the “trigger” movement on campuses around the country as yet another way to avoid debate by silencing points of view, normally conservative, that the majority of, normally liberal, students may not agree with. The idea is that seeing a particular phrase in print causes an unhappy feeling of some sort, and therefore, the word or phrase should be avoided by people who would be “triggered.” This sort of bubble-like protection from the realities of the modern world is the latest in a series of language control and feelings management that passes for higher education these days.
Last week, we reported on two examples of this. At Gettysburg College, in a TV news summary of last week’s incident, a student being interviewed pointed out that some of the flyers in question seemed, “very insensitive and that’s very triggering.” Independent of any particular issue, the idea that a college student should be protected from seeing language in print that they don’t like because it “triggers” some sort of bad feeling is just bizarrely unrealistic. And, frankly, not a good way to transition from childhood into the real world.
Take “anchor babies” as an example. Candidates for president debate the use, meaning, and issues with the term as part of the electoral process. If you don’t like the term, you can say so, as in this recent article by Amy Davidson in the New Yorker magazine, entitled, “The Anchor-Baby Question at the G.O.P. Debate.” This is called research and debate, which today’s young adults are apparently hiding from, just in case the subject or arguments in question might be something they don’t want to hear.
Or, take abortion. Abortion is an unhappy reality in our country. It is generally painful for all involved when it happens. For many decades, opponents of abortion call this “killing babies.” You don’t agree with that? Make the case. Or ignore the debate entirely. Sorry to be insensitive about it, but whining that this conversation triggers bad feelings is tautologous. Conversations about abortion make everyone with normal human feelings uncomfortable.
Yes, there is a fine line between commonly used speech that someone doesn’t like, and truly offensive, threatening language that decent people don’t use. But the history of our country shows repeatedly that trying to police that line is a fool’s errand. Today’s college students need to get a grip on reality. Mommy’s not around to change the channel anymore. The good news is that, in the above-mentioned TV report, you can see many Gettysburg college students wandering around the campus in their post-teenage bliss, not really caring at all about what just happened. Maybe they have it right after all.