Stephen Crane (1871-1900), author of the Civil War novel “The Red Badge of Courage,” attended Syracuse University for only three months after which he moved to New York’s slums “to get over college.”

Crane’s brief college experience deepened his desire to think for himself. One would think independent thought would be one of the aims of college, but Crane felt college was fostering what today we are calling “group-think.” Frustration with higher education led him to pen the following words.

“Think as I think,” said a man / “Or you are abominably wicked; / You are a toad.” / And after I had thought of it, / I said, “I will, then, be a toad.”

Today there is a mindset that says, “Think as I think, or …” and the list begins: “I will boycott you, label you, protest against you or even come to your house.” Ask Fox News anchor Tucker Carlson about that last one.

How strange that today’s boycotters, labelers, protesters and trespassers have veered from their 1960s grandparents who touted free speech. Taking to the streets for over a decade to protest the Vietnam War, children of the ’60s rightly took advantage of their freedom in the freest nation on Earth. The grungy flower children were exercising freedom of expression.

But that’s not what their grandchildren are doing. Today’s liberal left is saying, “Think as I think, Georgia Gov. Kemp, or I will boycott your state.” Netflix echoes the threat as does Disney, Hollywood, the state of California, and social media bigwigs.

Freedom is no longer proclaimed by the left. Conformity is. Recently, I watched as Chuck Todd of NBC announced there would be no opponents of climate change on his show because climate change is settled science. As though there is such a thing as settled science. True science is always in flux in the laboratory, the field, the air and the ocean. Why else have Todd and company dropped “global warming” for the broader term climate change? Todd was saying “Think as I think.”

Anti-Trumpers are saying the same thing. Unwilling to accept a legitimate election and work hard for the next one, they seed to illegitimize that election, insisting that the 63 million who brought it about must think as they think or … they’re bigots, non-readers and just not too smart.

Now, National Public Radio is saying “Think as I think.” Don’t tell me America has no state radio. Coming to you courtesy of NPR senior editor Mark Memmott and $281 million a year of your federal tax money, NPR’s “editorial guide” tells their reporters to think as the pro-choice folks think. No more use of the word “unborn.” It suggests a pregnant woman is carrying a baby, not a fetus. In fact, no more use of “pro-life and “pro-abortion.” It’s “pro-abortion rights” and “anti-abortion rights.” Also, no more “late term abortions.” NPR says it’s “a procedure known as extraction.” NPR must be loony to think extraction is a tamer word.

So a bud is not a flower, the tiny wet, ugly struggling creature inside an egg is not a bird, and a tadpole is not a frog. I believe there’s a federal law against “extracting” turtle eggs from beaches and lakes. Those turtle eggs we’ve got to respect.

Speaking of the environment, recently while I was watering a jumbo flower bed late at night, a car stopped and a female voice yelled, “You’re wasting resources. Plants are important but water is more important!”

My gentle reply, “What are you talking about?” bestirred her male companion, the driver, who got out and walked toward me. Quickly recalling an unofficial adult self-defense class taught by coaches at Meridian High School 50 years ago (one of the many reasons I love coaches), I prepared to do battle using the weapon in my hand, a full, tight and eager rubber hose.

I loosened my grip on the hose when the drunken young man said, “Sir, don’t pay any attention to her. She’s a tree hugger, drunker than I am and thinks everybody oughta think as she thinks.” He then asked for directions out of the neighborhood which I was glad to give.

From the sublime to the ridiculous, I thought, as I put away my hose and pondered the difference between Crane’s poetry and the silly incident that had just occurred. But that’s how suppression of thought works. Without resistance, it spreads everywhere.

Resistance is spreading also, however. State legislatures are listening to the growing pro-lifers and Trump’s supporters are holding steady. Maybe more people are thinking for themselves than we think.

Roger Hines is a retired English teacher and state legislator in Kennesaw.

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