The theme of conformity and deviation is a timeless one. Failure to adhere to established orthodoxy in all spheres of life has been costly to those who think, value and behave differently from the template of prevailing expectations.

The attic of history is rich in examples of the price that dissenters pay for their failure to conform to the established rules of life or the conditional requirements for acceptance in society.

Those with unorthodox views of life have been ridiculed, shunned, ostracized, jailed, shot, garroted, exiled, declared enemies of the state, their press shut down, their churches torched, their property confiscated, etc. Reflect on your own personal experience on the question of conformity for a reality check.

It is alway disturbing to see words and actions that are not truly threatening to the lives of others hobbled by rigid expectations for acceptance, but it is particularly disturbing to see dissent silenced on a college campus.

The recent events at the University of California at Berkeley (legendary in this regard for its “free speech” movement in the 1960s), where violent protests broke out in response to a planned appearance by a far-right commentator, is but a reminder of the gravity of the matter. Welcome to my world only on the condition that …

The issue of dissent is magnified in a society that values the jewel of political freedom. With this freedom, there is, however, neither a constitutional right not to be offended by a point of view expressed, nor guarantees that you must like a law enacted.

Alarm bells seem to be ringing once again, and the test of containing discontent within the system has been forced into sharp relief due, in part, to the cultivation of discord and distrust in the recent presidential contest.

Charles Scontras

Cape Elizabeth

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