From a reader, this:
Under pressure from a handful of aggrieved citizens, the city of Norwalk has decided to take down a WPA mural depicting “slaves” (were there still slaves in 1880? Never mind) loading a steamship.
The controversy was not about perceived racism, apparently, but the fact that no one has paid the complainers to compensate them for their hurt feelings:
“It’s very racist,” says Norwalk resident Angela Harris. “We have not gotten reparations. Until we’ve gotten reparations — this isn’t an art class here.”
One might ask Miss Harris how white people are to be made to feel guilty enough to pay her money for something that happened to her ancestors 200 years ago if history is whitewashed, so to speak, but again, that’s a quibble. What’s really going on here is touched upon in an essay published by Red State two days ago:
These people don’t think, believe or reckon. They “feel like.” Listen for this phrase and you’ll hear it everywhere, inside and outside politics. This reflex to hedge every statement as a feeling or a hunch is most common among millennials. But I hear it almost as often among Generation Xers and my own colleagues in academia. As in so many things, the young are early carriers of a broad cultural contagion.
The phrase says a great deal about our muddled ideas about reason, emotion and argument — a muddle that has political consequences.
“I feel like” masquerades as a humble conversational offering, an invitation to share your feelings, too — but the phrase is an absolutist trump card. It halts argument in its tracks.
When people cite feelings or personal experience, “you can’t really refute them with logic, because that would imply they didn’t have that experience, or their experience is less valid,” Ms. Chai told me.
“It’s a way of deflecting, avoiding full engagement with another person or group,” Elisabeth Lasch-Quinn, a historian at Syracuse University, said, “because it puts a shield up immediately. You cannot disagree.”
This is what is most disturbing about “I feel like”: The phrase cripples our range of expression and flattens the complex role that emotions do play in our reasoning. It turns emotion into a cudgel that smashes the distinction — and even in our relativistic age, there remains a distinction — between evidence out in the world and internal sentiments known only to each of us.
If our students have any hope of solving the problems for which trigger warnings and safe spaces are mere Band-Aids, they must reject this woolly way of speaking their minds.
We should not “feel like.” We should argue rationally, feel deeply and take full responsibility for our interaction with the world.