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Words of Wisdom

The Difference Between Persecution and Contradiction

The transcendental philosopher Ralph Waldo Emerson stressed that maintaining an open mind requires the ability to understand that contrary opinions are not innately steeped in ill will.

Words of wisdom from the journals of American philosopher Ralph Waldo Emerson:

“Let me never fall into the vulgar mistake of dreaming that I am persecuted whenever I am contradicted.”

– Ralph Waldo Emerson, 8 November 1838.

Emerson’s words retain relevance today, particularly in the age of the 24-hour news cycle in which sound bites and scorching hot takes command the most attention and elicit the highest amount of clicks. Within Emerson’s advice are two key points. First, he refutes that ideas in and of themselves are persecutory; persecution is instead the stuff of action. While ideas are admittedly fuel for acts, we cannot fool ourselves into equating opinions to the maladies of persecution. The political correctness thought police could learn a thing or two here.

Second, and perhaps more obvious, Emerson chides those who are so ridiculously devoted to the righteousness of their own ideas that anything which poses a contrary opinion must inherently be dangerous. The most plain real-world example of this today is the illusory “War on Christianity” propped up by the American right-wing media, in particular the assumption that any push for marriage equality across society is an affront to the personal liberties of individual Christians. It’s not. Open up your ears, folks, because Ralphy W.E. is spitting truth.


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