I want to live in a forgiving society. And I believe that most other Americans do, as well.
But cancel culture has no room for forgiveness.
If good works and self-worth have become synonymous with canceling, then this trend will not die. In fact, it will find more targets and become accompanied by increasing belligerence.
And if cancelation remains as popular as it is today, I predict two unfortunate fates for America.
One is the continued factionalization of our populace by the in-group and out-group of the current narrative. We will divide and embitter towards one another by race, gender, and every other exterior characteristic. These groups will further shrink and divide as new out-groups are contrived and fewer people can survive the purity tests of the new in-group.
Before long, we will all be pitted against one another by demographics we didn’t choose based on standards we didn’t set.
Second, true service to others will become lost among an obsession with attacking others. In a world that exists primarily on social media, serving society has become distorted into virtue-signaling.
Why would one volunteer, serve in the military, raise a family, or start a business when one gets more instant and abundant praise at the bottom of the right post or tweet?
You can’t serve others online, you can only attack. Thus, our actions become only what our primary form of communication allows.
Worse, when complex and sophisticated societal challenges are boiled down for quick emotional reactions (likes and shares), then right and wrong become defined by mood instead of truth.
Cancel culture via social media removes thoughtfulness and self-examination.
To be sure: it is good to recognize and confront racism. It is progress to make it unacceptable for men in power to take advantage of women or sexually exploit them.
Unfortunately, humanity removed from the presence of God has and will always deal with inequality and hatred.
But how quickly the noble goal of addressing these behaviors has devolved into something else entirely.
Something darker and more viral than COVID.
Our society is close to lost in the breeding of hate in the heart for those we don’t know; the inability to differentiate between harm and offense; and the discovery of the political usefulness of cancelation.
The hard truth is that cancelation is the product of years of identity politics. When politics divides people into classes or groups and then pits them against one another, then only hatred can be produced. Identity politics breeds hate, and identity politics created cancel culture.
Cancel culture transformed almost overnight from the pursuit of justice to the enforcement of thought uniformity.
Thus, in January the biggest “cancelation” to date happened when social media purged conservatives under the guise of “hate speech.”
Arguably, this is the nature of cancelation. It grows, it gets messy, and it gets exploited –it is an irreversible action of ultimate and final resort.
Cancelation is a form of modern execution with no standard of due process. Public opinion becomes guilt. The consequences of which can be enormous: the loss of a job, the destruction of a reputation, and the disenfranchisement of friends and family.
And it is entirely exploitable.
The politicization of cancel culture has defeated any good that can come from it.
If the impetus for canceling shifts from bad action to political disagreement, then any examination of wrongdoing will be excused away.
Conversely, if cancelation is only implemented when the offender is on the other side of the political aisle, then political allegiance can buy a free pass to do horrible things.
It is now, indeed, the left that is wielding the weapon of cancelation. And they are wielding it poorly.
For all of these reasons, cancel culture will ultimately harm our society, not help it. It has no room for forgiveness, no standard for due process, it is politically exploitable, and it breeds and intensifies itself.
Like anger in the human heart, cancel culture will kill its host organism. And that is our society.
In the Bible, Jesus stopped a crowd from stoning a woman for adultery by insisting that whoever was without sin cast the first stone. It was an approach rooted in love and humility. It allowed for an examination of wrongdoing both inside and out, and made room for forgiveness. It is a model to which we should aspire.
There are certainly elements of society to better. There is progress to be made, and people must be held accountable for their actions when they cause harm.
However, this current approach to progress is untenable. If we don’t build up the elements of society that encourage self-examination, no amount of cancelation will ever have effect.
Lessons on right and wrong must come from the church, the family, and the interpersonal. These lessons cannot come from a political platform. They cannot be enforced by fear.
I don’t have all the answers here, but I am cognizant of the dangerous trend around me. That’s my purpose in writing about it. I am imperfect and have made many mistakes, for which I want to do better and find forgiveness. Likewise, I hopefully encourage my country to find forgiveness for one another.
Bryan Griffin is a lawyer, author, and policy analyst at the London Center for Policy Research. He advocates for the causes of freedom and limited government.
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