Before “microaggressions,” people knew about inappropriate and/or insensitive and/or insulting comments. Those comments were frowned upon. They still are.
But why the new term, “microaggressions”? What purpose does it serve? There doesn’t seem to be any need for the new term except to justify reprisals. After all, if these micro-comments are real acts of aggression then they deserve a response against the perpetrators.
Lest you think I am imagining a nonexistent problem, the American Booksellers Association recently confessed to perpetrating a “violent incident.” What was this violence? Promoting a best-selling book to people who sell books for a living. The book, Irreversible Damage: The Transgender Craze Seducing Our Daughters was met with outrage and, of course, the ABA went through ritual humiliation to try to placate the haters.
But the way they did this on Twitter clearly declared the book and any mention of the book to be an act of violence:
Thankfully, the tweet was deleted. Someone may have realized that framing books as violent assaults is contrary to Western law as embodied in our First Amendment.
Because if books are violent assaults then, by self-evident moral and political reasoning, authors should be physically punished by the state as assailants. The State, after all, has an alleged monopoly on violence precisely in order to respond violently to those who commit “violent incidents.” Aggression allows, invites, and even demands a reprisal. In fact, judging from the behavior of Antifa, a significant number believe that, when the state fails in this alleged duty, private citizens have the right to do so.
Proverbs points to a different way of thinking about these wrongful slights:
“Good sense makes one slow to anger, and it is his glory to overlook an offense.”Proverbs 19:11 ESV
For the most part, inappropriate comments are widely perceived as cringe-worthy. People who make such comments expose themselves as marginal and anti-social people. But worrying about such comments as “microaggressions” makes the targets of such comments seem weak and frail. They act as if the people who are stupid enough to make such comments are in power.
Microaggressions lead naturally to “cancel culture.” The emphasis is never on how small (“micro-”) these aggressions are, but only on their allegedly aggressive nature. As acts of “aggression” such comments are treated as deserving a response. Because the action is allegedly a response to aggression, it is never considered disproportionate. Revealing someone’s identity, vandalizing property, or even assaulting a person physically, all become fair game.
Further, many of these “aggressions” are sometimes not even offensive according to the dominant culture. But instead of making arguments and trying to persuade people, calling these alleged slights “microaggressions” encourages the few to turn to belligerence, even to the point of violence, against an “oppressive society.” Except when you listen to the critique and the evidence, you realize they have in mind micro-oppression.
As a strategy, this is stupid. No society can tolerate real aggression. You only communicate to the wider culture that you are irrational, weak, and perhaps dangerous. Strong people make their case without hysteria or threats.
Solomon shows us a different value system that, if individuals adopt and practice at it, will make for a strong and just society:
“Whoever is slow to anger has great understanding, but he who has a hasty temper exalts folly."Proverbs 14:29 ESV
“Whoever is slow to anger is better than the mighty, and he who rules his spirit than he who takes a city."Proverbs 16:32 ESV
No one wants to hear this, but to have a society that truly honors the rights of people, you must also have a populace made up predominately of people who are patient when wronged and gentle when they believe they have been violated in some way. Otherwise, you get mobs of impatient and intolerant people who invoke the language of rights to make other people give them what they want. If a society doesn’t respect the rights of those who offend them, their government won’t either. The Bill of Rights and the legal tradition around it will prove to be a paper tiger. It will go up in smoke, eventually literally.
Mark Horne has served as a pastor and worked as a writer. He is the author of The Victory According To Mark: An Exposition of the Second Gospel, Why Baptize Babies?,J. R. R. Tolkien, and Solomon Says: Directives for Young Men. He is the Executive Director of Logo Sapiens Communications and the writer for SolomonSays.net.