• Thomas A. Wilson

Things You Can't Say in 2020

This blog post is about things you can’t say. To be clear, you can say them, but if you do, you’ll make some people unhappy. When the unhappy people are unhappy, they express outrage. They mock, ostracize, vilify, oppress, and persecute. Like train cars, they are lined up and linked together by their activism—and their social media posting thumbs are ready to get the cancel-culture-train rolling.

For instance, even if you believe the Covid-19 pandemic should be taken seriously, you can’t say that the official narrative is often confusing and contradictory. You can’t say that some of the new rules (and there are a lot of new rules) are just silly—like the rule that says you can go outside to protest, but you can’t go to church. You cannot say that rule is silly. (Just ask Tony Spell.)

Even if you believe, when it comes to sexuality, everybody should mind their own business, you can’t say that it’s inappropriate for biological boys to compete against, and supplant, biological girls in sporting events. Don’t even think about saying that. (Just ask J.K. Rowling.)

Even if you believe black lives matter, and that America has a real problem with underlying bias that negatively affects blacks in the criminal justice system—that is, that blacks are arrested, prosecuted, and incarcerated more vigorously than other groups—even if you believe that, you can’t say that all lives matter. (Just ask Grant Napear.)

Even if you believe that peaceful protests are a fundamental right in America, you can’t say that purposely disregarding traditional decorum during the national anthem is unhelpful and divisive. Nope, better not say that. (Just ask Drew Brees.)

Even if you believe in atheistic humanism, you can’t say that your liberal-elite entertainment peers are pampered and hypocritical. (Just ask Ricky Gervais.)

Even if you believe slavery was an abhorrent evil that had to end, you can’t say that Confederate veterans fought with valor in a complex war; the Civil War was fought over slavery and the role of the federal government in state affairs. One cannot say that. (Just ask every sculptor of every monument destroyed, moved, or desecrated.)

Even if you believe that America needs a radical transformation toward respect and opportunity for all, you can’t push back on attempts to sanitize the painful and heroic story of how we came to be where we are. (Just ask Whoopi Goldberg.)

Even if you believe that those who disagree with you are horribly in the wrong, you can’t say be kind to them anyway. (Just ask Ellen DeGeneres.)

Even if you believe that there is something beautiful in the human quest for meaning across the entire religious and philosophical spectrum, you can’t say the Lord’s prayer in a public forum. (Just ask Rick Warren.)

There are a lot of things you cannot say in 2020.

The problem, though, with not being able to say things is that people are then excluded from contributing to a collaborative narrative. Everybody lives inside a conversation they’re having with themselves. So, putting those conversations into the marketplace of ideas allows for give and take, discovery and understanding, evolution and inclusion. Vitriol, combined with social and economic threat, is doomed to fail (divided houses fall) as groups polarize for protection. In the end, everyone must recognize that this group does not have the right to dictate to that group. But each has a right to understand and be understood. One simply cannot correct the mistakes of the past by repeating them.

Oh, there’s one other problem. Since free speech is currently out of vogue, I’m not sure what other forms of persuasion are available.

But I’m sure you’ll figure it out.


In another of Cloud’s books, he says that integrity is the courage to face the demands of reality. The word courage derives from the Latin root cor, meaning heart. One key to successful manhood is finding the heart to face the unfair.

Affirmation: I actively participate in shaping the narrative within which I, and the ones I love, live.

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