Attention, Millennials: The Real World is Not a ‘Safe Space’

With valiant U.S. troops dying overseas, “safe spaces” have no place in American life.

By Tom Sileo Published on November 15, 2016

I usually scroll past Facebook “memes.” One such post, however, recently caught my eye.

“1944: 18-year-olds storm the beaches of Normandy into almost certain death,” the meme, which I’m quoting from memory, began. “2016: 18-year-olds need a safe space because words hurt their feelings.”

Of course, not every 18-year-old is seeking a “safe space,” but the overall theme of this Facebook meme is nevertheless important. It also got me thinking: How did a nation that led the world in defeating Nazism and Imperial Japan get to a point where some younger Americans retreat to “refuges for like minded people, where they don’t have to explain their politics, beliefs, or practices,” as CNN defined”safe spaces”?

I just saw the brilliant new movie Hacksaw Ridge, which tells the true story of World War II Medal of Honor recipient Desmond Doss. In one key scene, the young soldier (portrayed by Spider-Man’s Andrew Garfield) insists that he “needs to serve” in a combat unit despite his refusal to carry a rifle for religious reasons.

“Two guys in my hometown killed themselves because they were declared 4F – physically unfit to serve,” Doss’ character explains in the film (please forgive me for paraphrasing, as I didn’t have a pen with me at the movie theater).

Think about that for a moment. During World War II and other conflicts, some Americans would kill themselves if they weren’t allowed to fight and possibly die for their country. While tragic, this little-discussed fact is also a window into an astonishing brand of patriotism that is rarely seen today.

Here’s a reality check for college students who think they’re entitled to avoiding “distressing viewpoints.” If given the chance, an ISIS or al Qaeda terrorist would strap on an explosive belt and “bombard” your “safe space” without hesitation.

I say “rarely” because approximately one percent of our population still selflessly volunteers to put on our nation’s uniform. Many of these warriors are young people. Millions more respect our flag and would be willing to fight for freedom if their country calls.

Still, the entire concept of “safe spaces” has left me shaking my head.

“Safe spaces are an expression of the conviction, increasingly prevalent among college students, that their schools should keep them from being ‘bombarded’ by discomfiting or distressing viewpoints,” Judith Shulevitz pointed out in a New York Times piece that was quoted in the aforementioned CNN article.

Here’s a reality check for college students who think they’re entitled to avoiding “distressing viewpoints.” If given the chance, an ISIS or al Qaeda terrorist would strap on an explosive belt and “bombard” your “safe space” without hesitation. Make no mistake: radical Islamic terrorists want to kill you and destroy everything that you stand for.

ISIS Has No Use for Your “Safe Spaces”

Do you think I’m exaggerating? Go back and watch horrific footage of the April 2013 terrorist attack on the Boston Marathon, which will soon be recreated in a major Hollywood film. Don’t you think the three innocent civilians who were killed and the 264 men and women injured felt like they were in a “safe space” while running or cheering during one of America’s great sporting events?

How about less than a year ago in San Bernardino, Calif., where 14 Americans were killed and 22 injured in a terrorist attack on their company Christmas party? Weren’t they in a “safe space” before their gathering was shattered by hellish gunfire and piercing screams?

Still not convinced? This past June, the worst terrorist attack on American soil since 9/11 occurred inside a gay nightclub in Orlando. Forty-nine Americans were killed and 53 injured by a terrorist who called 911 and pledged allegiance to ISIS while inside the club. The victims of this horrific attack almost certainly believed that they were in a “safe space,” too.

This past Saturday in Afghanistan, U.S. troops and civilian contractors gathered at Bagram Airfield for a post-Veterans Day “fun run.” A suicide bomber ran into the jubilant American group and blew himself up, killing U.S. Army Pfc. Tyler Iubelt, 20, and Sgt. John Perry, 30, while also injuring 16 additional soldiers. Two American contractors were killed as well.

Fallen Soldiers

U.S. Army Pfc. Tyler Iubelt, left, and Sgt. John Perry were killed in Afghanistan on Saturday.

I am sick and tired of hearing about “safe spaces” here at home while brave U.S. troops are dying abroad. The fact that terrorists are also killing innocent Americans inside our very homeland makes the idea of retreating to “safe spaces” even more of a joke. As someone who graduated from college in 2001, I never imagined having to write this column after our country experienced the horrors of 9/11. Don’t most young people understand what is at stake?

Universities that promote “safe spaces” are not worthy of the hefty annual tuition and fees that they demand from students and their parents. My alma mater, Rutgers University, is apparently partaking in this politically correct madness. Perhaps the next time Rutgers asks for a donation, I’ll tell them that my money is locked in a “safe space.”

I have had the great honor of getting to know many veterans – including millennials – who have volunteered to serve our country. I have also spent countless hours talking to families of young men and women who didn’t come home alive from Afghanistan or Iraq. While I wouldn’t dare speak for them, one thing is for sure: their enormous sacrifices remove any doubt about whether “safe spaces” exist in our very dangerous world.

Instead of whining and retreating to “safe spaces,” wouldn’t it be nice if more college students dedicated some of their time, energy and intellect to supporting the men and women of our military community? After all, they are the ones fighting to keep ISIS and al Qaeda terrorists out of your imaginary “safe spaces.”

Nobody cares about your feelings, millennials. It’s time to grow up and be thankful for your freedom, which generations of brave Americans have fought to preserve.

Liberty is precious. Don’t waste it by avoiding reality.


Tom Sileo is co-author of Fire in My Eyes and Brothers Foreverand recipient of the Marine Corps Heritage Foundation’s 2016 General Oliver P. Smith Award for distinguished reporting. Follow him on Twitter.

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