I sat near the front row of our classroom, close enough to engage in discussion, yet far enough to bow out if necessary.  I had plain jeans, a nondescript t-shirt and some forgettable, but nice-looking shoes.  It was an English class; most students were women, dressed in an assortment of pajamas, sorority and university shirts, and a medley of whatever else they stumbled into that morning.  They were all young, but I have a little bit of a baby face and could have passed for my early twenties, so I didn’t seem to stand out too much.

We were discussing authors like John Dryden and John Milton, discovering their views on censorship while applying them to modern society.  I agreed with John Milton–there is a clear distinction between good and evil, you just have to understand evil so you don’t succumb to it.  Milton went on to encourage those with opposing opinions to open up a dialogue, rather than censoring each other.

In that spirit, I said it was important to allow sexist and racist media into our society–Sun Tzu said that, “If you know the enemy and know yourself, you need not fear the result of a hundred battles,” and I figured that could apply to social battles too.  Besides this weird thing called “free speech” that I’m pretty fond of, you can’t just sweep evil under the rug and hope it just dissolves away.

Pajama girl, months out of high school, vehemently disagreed.  “I get it, censorship is bad.  I totally agree… but it’s absurd to give validity to arguments about sexism or racism by publishing that trash.  You’re taking the author’s words way out of context.”

“So who decides what ‘isn’t valid enough’ to publish?  You?” I wondered.  And I already knew what context the authors were speaking–they were speaking of far harsher circumstances than we have to deal with today, but I would get to that later.

“I know what you’re getting at, but there’s a difference between censorship and stopping hateful people from having a voice.”  Pajama girl was on the defensive, repeating her few lines of argument over and over.

We debated for a bit, but she didn’t really have much ammo to work with.  Even our very liberal teacher ended up siding with me.