The Bill of Rights is for the least among us, the oddballs and the weirdos who think differently than everyone else.
Rand Paul spoke these words during his May 20th Filibuster against the NSA’s data collection policies. As someone who has always felt at odds with their peers, they rang true. It was thrown out as an offhanded comment, but it’s still important for all of us to remember in a time where silencing the minority opinion is quickly becoming a huge issue on university campuses. The Bill of Rights is there to protect the person you disagree with, no matter how heinous their beliefs or opinions.
Whatever your view, it isn’t okay to silence people who disagree with you or categorically ignore them. It isn’t okay to force them to shut up, police what they say and how they say it, or punish people for their beliefs. Wrapped up in the university debates, we forget that suppressing speech gets as bad as people getting expelled for their beliefs, imprisoned for their beliefs or their skin tone, or even killed.
The more you dislike or even hate someone, the more important it is for you to remember that the Bill of Rights is meant to protect them too. Using personal insults, silencing tactics, and mistreatment to shut them down isn’t justifiable, no matter how bad their beliefs are. If their beliefs are truly bad, open debate will be in your favor and you can demonstrate why their beliefs are false in a public forum. It doesn’t matter how often something has “been proven” before: people have the right to repeat and discuss their beliefs as often as they please.
Remember this the next time you encounter someone you disagree with: the Bill of Rights protects them too, because they are humans who are worth it. Instead of writing them off, disrespecting them, and devaluing them, take the time to listen to them. Respect them, learn from them where you can, and teach them where you can as well. Even the staunchest libertarian has something to learn from a socialist, and so too does each of us have something to learn from people we disagree with.
Conversely, if someone refuses to respect you or give what you say a moment’s thought, that doesn’t give you permission to respond with vitriol. Just forget about it, and move on to someone you can actually help.
One of the major points of disagreement that conservatives have with the university culture of today is that it shuts down debate and brooks no argument. The answer is not to correspondingly try to shut down the other side, but to listen and open up honest debate to get to the truth of the matter at hand, whatever it may be. People are more likely to listen to you if you listen to them respectfully, just as you are more likely to listen to someone who respects you.
This is at the core of the Bill of Rights, that every human is worthy and deserving of respect just by virtue of their being.