Previous Page An Issue 88.
Each generation must accept blame not only for the hateful works and actions of some of its members but also for the failure of other members to speak out against those words and actions. Question
Discuss the extent to which you agree or disagree with the opinion stated above. Support your views with reasons and/or examples from your own experience, observations, or reading. Analysis
The issue at hand is whether each generation is blameworthy for the hateful words and actions of some of its members and for the failure of others to denounce those hateful words and actions. In my view, it does not make clear sense to hold a vague abstraction like a generation responsible for anything. Nevertheless, each person has a duty to resist hateful words and actions and to speak out against them.
Admittedly, up to a point we have no legal obligation to resist hateful words. Given our First Amendment right of free speech, we are entitled to say whatever hateful things we wish as long as our words do not harass, slander, libel, incite to riot or otherwise cause significant harm. Even so, this legal entitlement does not absolve us of deeper moral duties. For example, all persons are morally bound not to harm others and to be helpful where it is important and within our capacity. The rhetoric of hate violates both these duties by promoting attitudes and social climates in which those who are hated are refused help and often harmed.
Not so clear is the issue of whether we also have a moral duty to denounce the hateful rhetoric and conduct of others. I believe we do for silence is perceived as tacit approval or at least indifference. Seen this way, silence helps foster hateful attitudes and related harm. In other words, not speaking out is just another way to fail in our obligations to be helpful and not harmful. Moreover, as individuals we are able to speak out against hateful words and actions in a variety of ways. By teaching tolerance to our children, for example, we can help them understand and appreciate differences among people and therefore understand that hate-based responses to difference are simply wrong.
In sum, while it makes no sense to hold a generation responsible for anything as a group, I agree that every individual bears responsibility for speaking out against hateful words and behaviours as well as for resisting them.