Bullying in middle school remains a devastating problem. That little rumor, passed among lockers or in text chains; that insecurity over a physical attribute or anything that marks someone as different from the group — kids seize on such opportunities to impose a social hierarchy, a sort of caste system that can ruin self-esteem and even result in physical violence.

The stakes can be even higher for adults.

”Cancel culture” has been debated and discussed ad nauseam, whether it exists or it doesn’t, which political party is more likely to engage in cancellation, the fact that it’s always been around, whether it’s actually any worse at present.

The simple fact is that while the most public cases of “cancellation” or “being held accountable” focus on major figures like filmmaker James Gunn or author J.K. Rowling, such individuals’ legacies are complicated rather than destroyed. We still watch “Guardians of the Galaxy.” We still read “ Harry Potter.”

No, the more devastating effects of this amorphous cancel culture occur in the lives of everyday individuals.

Dredging up old social media posts, disclosing controversial political affiliations, or even spreading rumors can result in the same devastation as it used to on the playground, only now with real-world complications including losing a job or college opportunity or poisoning professional relationships.

It’s still a nasty, toxic form of bullying — a way to separate the in-group from the out, only in the adult world it’s along moral lines. It’s a way to say “they are bad and must be cast out” and, simultaneously, “I am better than them.”

For those rolling their eyes at this point, this wouldn’t need to be said if it wasn’t happening consistently.

There are people who dig into others’ pasts to find material to use against them, essentially leveraging “oppo research” on neighbors and co-workers. Current culture incentivizes this behavior as a way of establishing credentials with various groups, either the woke left or the right-wing conspiracists, and many in between.

Punishing others for their opinions merely engenders resentment, hurt and destruction.

It does not teach or instruct.

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It does not allow room for forgiveness.

It is mob behavior, pure and simple.

This must change.

Like the middle-schoolers, these are real people with real feelings. Even if their sins are genuine, should there not be opportunity for repentance and growth? Would that aim not be better served by confronting someone in private, either online or in person, and reasoning with that person, trying to help them understand your difference of belief or opinion?

Let reasonable discourse return.

— Tribune News Service

{p class=”krtText”}Is the country so far gone that this is now impossible?

{p class=”krtText”}Not yet. But we must roll back the prevalence of this online persecution and tyranny and allow reason and discourse to flourish once again. Perhaps there are people who are irredeemable, but the vast majority of average folks facing cancellation are capable of growth and change, if indeed there is a moral obligation to do so and not a mere difference of opinion.

{p class=”krtText”}Let reasonable discourse return.

{p class=”krtText” style=”text-align: right;”}— Tribune News Service

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