Trigger Warnings…

Seriously? This is a “thing”?… After the Break…

Trigger Warnings…

I don’t believe everything that I read. You can’t nowadays. Orson Welles and the Mercury Theatre taught us not to believe the radio in 1938 with his rendition of “War of the Worlds.” Propaganda is rife during wars and during regimes. 70% of all facts are made up.

So when I read a day or so ago about “trigger warnings,” I was more than a bit skeptical. I had never even heard of the term. What did it mean? I first thought that it meant a symptom that someone exhibited just before they went on a shooting rampage.

“Trigger Warnings,” though, appear to be something much more comical in a rather sad, social commentary sort of way.

“Trigger Warnings” is the latest craze sweeping the intelligentsia crowd, especially in the educational industry. Here’s how it works: Suppose I teach a class on philosophy. At some point during the class, I’m going to need to speak about religion in order to demonstrate some aspects of philosophy. It doesn’t take a world-class genius to figure out that there may be some Jesus Freaks in the classroom that make “born-again Christians” looks like twice-a-year slackers wobbling into church wearing ripped blue jeans, an old rock concert T-shirt and a pair of Crocs. Inevitably, the moment that I open my mouth to form syllables to suggest that their Lord and Savior might not exist will be greatly upsetting to them, “triggering” their Holy Righteous Outrage. Thus, I provide a “trigger warning” for anyone who can’t bear the thought that *gasp* not everyone believes that your imaginary friend really exists.

I have since read that “trigger warnings” were invented with the best of intentions (thus further paving a certain road that we know all too well). Women who had been raped obviously would not be comfortable when presented with media concerning rape. The same goes with genocide or spousal abuse or pedophilia or exhibitions of extreme racism, such as modern-day slave trading or viewpoints about various brutal regimes. There are people who have been mentally & physically tortured well past their breaking points and it would seem to be, at least, a bit diplomatic to forewarn them when subject matter that might be personally upsetting to their individual history would be presented. Woe be the professor to suggest to her class that college-aged males who obsess over the series “My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic” are more than a bit on the unbalanced side without offering the appropriate “trigger warning.”

Now, of course, “trigger warnings” have seeped into the college psyche where the next class of future adults are trying to one-up previous generations in telling the rest of us what is fashionable to do and not do on the intellectual front. Whereas the intent of trigger warnings were to be specified to individuals with legitimate concerns, now trigger warnings should be posted for such benign topics such as politics and religion because… You know… Sensitivity and all that other good stuff.

I have no problem with accommodating specific individuals when special circumstances arise. I can remember in grade school that the brother to a student had passed away from an illness. From that day forward, it was taboo to sing a favorite song of his from the music textbook in front of that student because it would make the student upset. I understand that and I have absolutely no problem with such an accommodation.

“Trigger Warnings,” though, are no longer that. “Trigger Warnings” now seem to be a convenient excuse to not engage in potentially contentious discussion. It’s not about the woman who was repeatedly abused by her parents until the authorities intervened, it’s about “religion” or “politics” or “climate change”… Topics that should be allowed to be discussed openly and without obstruction. Only when calm, rational debate occurs do we progress as a society. “Trigger Warnings” do not facilitate such debate but rather stunts it.

I hope that “Trigger Warnings” revert back to the highly specialized, highly individualized nature that it originated from. There is nothing wrong with being sensitive and thoughtful. There is something wrong with stifling freedom of expression for the sake of thin-skinned college students who can’t fathom that their subjective extra-curricular beliefs or values are not the only valid ones.


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