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3 Who Turned Microaggressions (and Aggression!) Into Good


We live in a time of great paradox.


In Syria and Iraq, a ruthless ideological horror has crafted its expansionist state on the edifice of murder, rape and pillage. In Russia, a self-styled autocrat has revived the cult of personality and silenced dissent through brazen invasion and brutal intimidation. And in Iran, nuclear legitimacy nears its completion while government-led mobs call for annihilation of the United States and Israel.

Surely, the modern world has no shortage of aggression.

And yet while lacking a clear response to these examples of overt aggression, our country has become obsessed with how to respond to far lesser offenses dubbed “microaggressions.” Microaggressions are defined as perceived intentional or unintentional slights that are purportedly derogatory to “marginalized groups.” Trigger warnings (now commonly populating academic syllabi and other media) warn of potentially distressing material to those delicate souls who may be harmed by their mere mention. Safe zones are physical spaces (especially on college campuses) that ostensibly provide non-threatening, non-judgmental sanctuaries for communication and fellowship free of microaggressions.

Yes, welcome to the new vocabulary. But it has far-reaching ramifications. Out of this mind-set, protests and public campaigns have arisen intent on stripping Woodrow Wilson’s name from Princeton’s School of Public and International affairs to promoting gender-free pronouns by the University of Tennessee. In sum, an entire social architecture has arisen in response to individual complaints of hurt feelings. We have come to a time where subjective feelings have become synonymous with objective truth.

This is quite the paradox. In a world of expanding vicious and uncontestable aggression there has emerged a coinciding ever-growing list of hairsplitting grievances. Curiously, these latter injustices are increasingly difficult to discern beyond the fact that a person had his feelings hurt. Whatever the case, whether aggression or microaggression, the natural consequence is bitterness and vengeance. And we have seen a lot of that lately. But let me tell you of three who found another way.

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