As an alumn of The Ohio State University, I know quite a bit about football and “sports obsessed” culture—either you love it or hate it (guess which I was). And so when I saw this tweet on Twitter, I knew I had to get involved in the brouhaha:
Nick Bosa is an incoming freshman football player at Ohio State, coming into the university team as his well-known brother, Joey Bosa, leaves OSU to play for the San Diego Chargers.
Thanks to his last name, and (probably) his well-recognized skill as a player, Nick already has a strong following on Twitter. And many of his followers weren’t impressed with his above tweet, which had two objectionable points:
Advocates for the LGBTQ+ community tried to point out to Nick that his tweet was coming from a place of privilege, and that maybe he shouldn’t trivialize the journeys of people who were apart of the school that he now helps represent as a celebrated football player.
Others tried to work on Nick’s position on climate change—as he seems to imply is purely a natural occurrence with no links to human fossil fuel activity. His evidence? The United States’ exceptionally cold winter two years ago, known in the midwest as the “polar vortex.”
This is where I jumped in:
(Essentially, people confuse the weather they see everyday for “climate.” Weather is isolated to a specific time and region, and is not a realistic predictor of the Earth’s overarching climate. So while we have had some extremely cold winters in midwest United States, the average global temperature has still been creeping up. Saying climate change isn’t real because you have a cold winter is like saying the bee population is doing fine because you got stung by one yesterday).
ANYWAY, Nick’s response? It was two-fold:
First, he posted this tweet:
Then he blocked me. Don’t think I’m special, though, he blocked more-or-less everyone who disagreed with him.
Almost at once, those of us who were involved recognized a hilarious dichotomy between his two responses. On one hand, he was claiming that the world was “too soft” and on the other, he was blindly blocking anyone who dared question his interpretation of the world. And while I initially posted some tweets condemning Nick Bosa for his response, I’ve come to realize how insightful they are to the condition of dialogue in our nation.
The truth is, when people are talking about the world “being too soft” or “being too politically correct” they are using a sort of code language.
Their objection isn’t truly with the world being too soft, nor is their objection with people being too politically correct. Their objection is with people disagreeing with them, and being forced to intellectually defend their positions. Their objection is with debate, with dialogue, and with having people who are willing to openly disagree.
That is how Nick Bosa can call people “too soft” in one breath, and then ban everyone who disagrees with him in the next. He doesn’t care about people being “soft,” he cares about people disagreeing with him. It is the disagreement itself that is “soft,” not the manner of the dialogue itself. If anything, people stepping forward to have a discussion should be evidence of strength, not weakness.
From Nick Bosa, to supporters of “anti-PC” candidate Donald Trump, many people are tired of having to defend positions that were commonplace and routinely accepted only a half-decade prior.
Their problem isn’t that people have different views—people have had different views in this country since 1776. Their problem isn’t with their free speech being “suppressed”—everyone still has the same legal rights to speak their mind that they did the day our nation’s first ten amendments were passed.
Their problem is that they are intellectually lazy, and aren’t familiar with people pushing back on ideas that they parrot on reflex—things that were ingrained into them via culture and tradition. Their problem is that people now get called out for previously tolerated ignorance. Their problem is that now people get fired for being homophobic, bigoted, etc. Their problem is that while people once nodded along as the privileged parroted their ableist, heteronormative, racist, misogynistic beliefs, they now get called out. Their problem is that once their privilege is stripped away, their ideas have to stand on their own merits, and their merits are very few.
But here’s the thing: this intellectual laziness is not just isolated to the people on “the right” moaning about “political correctness.”
It also exists within the cohorts of idealistic “Social Justice Warriors” who prowl the internet, looking for the next person to label as “racist,” “sexist,” “homophobic,” or “bigoted.”
These words become apart of our code language—a way to signal to our like-minded followers that something isn’t open to discussion or debate, and that we must immediately label it and condemn it. These loaded labels are shortcuts from having legitimate discussions with people about what certain occurances are problematic.
And we say that our opinion is “fact” because we read it in some Higher Education textbook, or in some academic seminar on cultural appropriation, and box everyone who disagrees as racists, or sexists, and maybe some—we’d assume—are good people (who just need to be educated). In that way, sometimes we are just as afraid as Nick Bosa.
And you know what? Sometimes people do say ignorant things, and sometimes they do need to be educated, but dialogue is how that happens.
And dialogues don’t always formulate in university classrooms, moderated by a faculty member from the Diversity & Inclusion Center. Sometimes dialogues just have to happen. Sometimes we have to dare to assume that some offensive ideas come from a place of good intent, and be brave enough to put our experiences and beliefs out there in response. I think that’s how the world changes.
I think we have to dare to not block people who disagree. I think we have to dare to not put people into boxes. I think we have to enter EVERY discussion prepared to learn something new, even from the ideas that terrify us.
I am reminded of a speech by Michael Douglas’ character in the movie The American President:
America isn’t easy. America is advanced citizenship. You’ve gotta want it bad, ’cause it’s gonna put up a fight. It’s gonna say, “You want free speech? Let’s see you acknowledge a man whose words make your blood boil, who’s standing center stage and advocating at the top of his lungs that which you would spend a lifetime opposing at the top of yours.” You want to claim this land as the land of the free? Then the symbol of your country cannot just be a flag. The symbol also has to be one of its citizens exercising his right to burn that flag in protest. Now show me that, defend that, celebrate that in your classrooms.
Then you can stand up and sing about the land of the free.
And so, I believe we are right. I believe that cultural appropriation is wrong. I believe that institutional racism haunts our country and that police brutality absolutely must be addressed. I believe all LGBTQ+ people should be able to live, laugh, love (and pee), without being oppressed. But unilaterally attacking people who disagree cannot be the symbol of our country. The symbol of country has to talking, debating, discussing, and listening—even to ideas that make us want to vomit.
And so I believe that Nick Bosa is problematic, but so are we.