It seems there are more and more topics we shy away from out of fear of offending, being shouted down, or getting “canceled.” We can either accept this as a new reality, or we can remember that our voices have value. The saying “see something, say something” isn’t just about security on the Metro at night. It’s about what kind of world we want to live in.
The name of this new feature was inspired by the story of Theo van Gogh (the great-grandnephew of the famous Dutch painter), who was murdered in the Netherlands in 2004. This was not some random mugging or drug offense gone wrong. Van Gogh was murdered because he directed a short film written by Ayaan Hirsi Ali called Submission: Part 1. The film took a critical look at how women are treated under Islam.
For that he was shot and stabbed on his way to work one morning. His last words are reported to have been: “Mercy, mercy! Can’t we talk about this?”
We can and we should be able to talk about just about anything, to explore our own thinking and the thinking of others, to understand ideas that various people hold and why they hold them, to discover what we will commit to standing up for, and to understand why we hate the evil ideas we do.
As Americans, the First Amendment protects us from punitive action by the government if we speak up about our beliefs. Most countries do not enjoy such protections. Our society is the freest place to think and speak.
I published an op-ed this week in the Chronicle of Philanthropy called “Diversity Mandates from Foundations Make It Harder for Nonprofits to Do Their Job Well.” Many reactions have been positive. In private, some supporters agree that it’s great to see this perspective out there. But the public comments?
“this article is such a dangerous discussion that WILL erase the truth”
“what a great display of global colonial white supremacy”
“if this is too hard for you, please change profession”
These comments are from total strangers—people who don’t know me, have no intention of understanding a point of view different than their own, and who think that by bullying others publicly, they can silence them.
It is in this spirit that we’re launching this new feature. Here we are going to talk about it. We’re going to talk about the things that people are afraid or unwilling to speak about for fear of retaliation, shaming, judgment, etc. We’re going to celebrate success and all the great work philanthropy does. We’re going to get uncomfortable sometimes. We’re definitely going have fun.
We’re going to rediscover our voices.
If we stop talking about the hard or unpopular things, those who are looking to silence people will only become emboldened, like all bullies are when no one stands up to them. Theo van Gogh’s plea was heard. Yes, we can talk about this.
Watch the first two episodes in the video playlist below.