The piece below was written this summer in the midst of the turmoil that has only continued to rot away at our society. I had put it away because I wanted to be sure the words penned below were the words I really wanted to say; I have spent months reading and revising it. This topic weighs heavily upon my heart, and I may still, even with this updated version you are about to read, fail to convey what it is I mean to say. Therefore, I ask you to please leave me your thoughts on what I have presented, as well as your own opinions regarding the matter at hand.
I’m sure we are all familiar with the vocalist Sara Bareilles and her hit song “Brave.” If not, I invite you to take a quick listen and watch the accompanying video here:
Now that we’re all on the same page (or is it the same note?), I’d like to briefly discuss something that has for a while been on my mind.
One day while moseying along the open highway in my little, black car, the above song came on the radio. Ever since the day that song first graced the auditory nerves, I have been absolutely in love with it; I think Bareilles is one of the most talented vocalists of today. Admittedly, I am not a die-hard fan; but that does not diminish her talent, nor the fact that this song, “Brave,” has touched upon a critical topic of our time.
At no time in history or in the future was it or will it be unnecessary or unimportant for one to lift his or her thoughts and beliefs fearlessly
Of course, it can be argued that that upon which the song is based is relevant to all time periods. At no time in history or in the future was it or will it be unnecessary or unimportant for one to lift his or her thoughts and beliefs fearlessly, to be brave and to demonstrate to the world without reservation the core values that form one’s composition. But ours is a unique time—not unprecedented, just unique.
Much of what we say today feels as if it must first pass through a filter—a TSA of speech, if you will—before breeching the lips, else we find ourselves shamed outcasts of society
We are all familiar with political correctness, and how much of what we say today—though far more unobstructed, unabashed, and louder in terms of audience reach than generations prior (not to mention we in this country have this incredible gift, the ability to speak freely, that so many who have lived and still live in the world were and are not afforded)—feels as if it must first pass through a filter—a TSA of speech, if you will—before breeching the lips, else we find ourselves shamed outcasts of society. This piece, however, is not about “PC culture.” Rather, it investigates the flipside of “being brave.”
Sarah Bareilles’ song speaks to me in a personal way, as I’m sure is its intent. And because it, like all forms of art, speaks to each individual individually, I cannot speak to the vastly different interpretations the masses may hold. When we listen to the song, each of us will hear Bareilles telling us to be brave, and though she never tells us for and about what specifically we need to be brave and speak freely, we know, each in our own minds and hearts, what exactly that thing is. Perhaps Bareilles had a specific person or topic in mind when she wrote the song. That’s more than possible. But, as is with my ability to speak to all interpretations generated by this song, any inciting topic, event, or reason that may have spawned “Brave” will be beyond my power to define.
This piece is not a critique or review of “Brave.” Instead, it is a critique on the manner in which I feel our inseparably connected society views and receives the bravery, as Bareilles states, to “say what you wanna say.”
If we do indeed, as the song commands, “let the words fall out,” how will those words be received? Some may argue that free speech is presently at its height, that our society has grown to accept so many new beliefs and ways of living, and that we, as a result, have become stronger as a people.
In a bubble, wherein acceptance is the law of the land, those outside can quickly become viewed as criminal offenders, whose own law is wrong and bubble is wicked
But have we? Sure, to speak openly about things that may once have been considered taboo or wrong, or were and are still controversial, has come to be such a celebrated act of bravery that it has thusly become commonplace. So many voices can be heard today, and as a result many like-minded communities are born. They speak without fear that their beliefs or values or identities will be attacked and worry not about acceptance. This is not an inherently bad thing. However, these communities can become isolated bubbles, and in a bubble, wherein acceptance is the law of the land, those outside can quickly become viewed as criminal offenders, whose own law is wrong and bubble is wicked. It is very true that, today, to be in a minority group of values and beliefs—more specifically one that challenges long-standing conventions—is to be, for lack of a better word, popular. And when something is popular, donning its colors is no longer an act of bravery.
Indeed, many diverse and often once unpopular schools of thought, sets of values, and ideas regarding life, the world, and one’s self have in this time been accepted into the popular mainstream. But does this show that we have grown? Is it evidence that we have become stronger? I say it is clearly evidence that we have changed, but if “grown” and “stronger” mean that we have moved on to better, greener pastures, I’d say we have actually shrunk, withered, become weaker.
I have long said that the people with whom I enjoy talking the most are those whose opinions, values, views, and lifestyles are the complete opposite of mine. If I spent all my time speaking with like-minded people, I’d never learn anything
I’m not here to say that all convention-challenging beliefs, identities, or ways of living are bad or wrong. I do not agree with all of them, but I do not believe one whose voice carries notes different from my own should be silenced. As a matter of fact, I have long said that the people with whom I enjoy talking the most are those whose opinions, values, views, and lifestyles are the complete opposite of mine. If I spent all my time speaking with like-minded people, I’d never learn anything. I need new viewpoints, fresh voices, something that will challenge me to reevaluate that on which I stand to see if it truly is a solid foundation.
So, why do I say I believe society has withered? Simple. Only one opinion, or type of opinion, is allowed to be brave. Does this assertion hold water? Let’s test it and see.
Keep a tally. Which of the following opinions are right? And which do you consider brave?
Homosexuality is an inherited orientation.
Homosexuality is a lifestyle choice.
Culture defines and matches gender according to one’s anatomy.
The individual, regardless of culture or anatomy, defines one’s own gender.
Abortion is a human right.
Abortion is murder.
Racism exists, but is less prominent and not a significant societal factor.
Racism is alive and well.
How many were right? Which statements, if from the lips of another lifted, would move you to declare that person brave?
We have in turn made it perilous for anyone to speak in opposition, thus forcing the opposing individual to be brave—and that bravery...is either ignored or labeled as hatred, fear, ignorance, and/or bigotry
I am greatly disappointed when I see individuals with views considered popular paradoxically praised for their bravery, while those with opposing views are berated and chastised. What’s so brave about saying what’s popular? Here’s an example: Society once bore an aversion toward homosexuality, and yet, though we say we have progressed, we have actually stood still. We have made it easier and popular to publically proclaim and live out sexual orientations once deemed incompatible with society’s structure, calling this a progressive move; but we have in turn made it perilous for anyone to speak in opposition, thus forcing the opposing individual to be brave—and that bravery, a bravery which is no less brave than the kind those whose once unpopular views are now protected and praised, is either ignored or labeled as hatred, fear, ignorance, and/or bigotry.
There is no compromise with truth. And if the views, beliefs, and values we hold are by our tongues called truth, we must be willing and confident enough to try them by fire
Opinions, all opinions, must be discussed in a place where human beings with brains can bring their thoughts, logic, and reasoning, leaving prejudice and stubbornness at the door, that we might pursue truth as one. There is no compromise with truth. And if the views, beliefs, and values we hold are by our tongues called truth, we must be willing and confident enough to try them by fire, toss them into the ring with opposing views that they might be refined by or fall to what is true. And if our truth is not refined and made known to be tested and true by this fire, we must forsake our stubbornness and hold fast to what is true, lest we condemn ourselves to everlasting turmoil.
We should all have opinions and beliefs, and we should all be able to defend those opinions and beliefs with more than just a casual, “Well, that’s just how it is”
It is wrong for anyone to lambast, ridicule, and hate those simply for holding an opposing view, while celebrating the freedom that comes with being unafraid to speak the mind. We should all have opinions and beliefs, and we should all be able to defend those opinions and beliefs with more than just a casual, “Well, that’s just how it is.” We must know what we believe and why, and we must be ready to try our beliefs and not just hold them because they feel good. Truth is often hard to find. And it is usually not exactly what we want. But it is truth. And it must be sought with diligence and maturity, but most of all unity.
Just because one is being “brave” by doing, being, supporting, or believing something some may call controversial or wrong or taboo, but is now socially accepted and popular, does not mean one has the right to cast aspersions on someone who is likewise being brave by lifting their presently unpopular opinion. If we do this, all we’ll have is a viciously divided society, filled with angry, hurt people, all crying discrimination and complaining of intolerance, when in fact those pointing the finger on both sides are at fault. Until we can come together and debate and discuss and peruse truth as one people, we will do nothing but stumble and fall, over and over again—being ever only bitter and angry, and never brave.
Opinions held for reasons of hate, or to enact hate toward the harming of others for the satisfaction of one’s selfish dislike for a person, persons, or set of principals, or to justify breaking the law or violate another’s constitutional rights, are, of course, not supported by this piece, nor are such irrational, ignorant views, rooted in nothing that can be defended by any sound argument, deserving of protection.
Oh, and one more thing. If I were to critique Bareilles’ video, I’d say that while I love the idea of everyone dancing in their own, fearless way to demonstrate bravery, I do find it a bit damaging to the message of being one’s self when all the dancers come together in the end and conform to one another’s dancing style, and begin dancing in unison. Perhaps this means that they’re all united in being themselves—but, in my opinion, I find it a bit odd.
©2016 by C. K. Conners