America’s cultural dialogue is one breath away from growing stone cold. From dying so utterly that only miraculous resurrection can revive it.But if it dies, it will not be the casualty of “cancel culture,” Antifa, or even speech code laws, as imposed on our not-so-friendly neighbors to the north.No, the death of the American dialogue will be a result of enslaved thought.There are two ways to silence a people: cut out their tongues or remove their brains. While Americans of all political dispositions have worked tirelessly to defend the public square for the preservation of free speech, our enemies snuck in the side gate and lobotomized the populace.Benjamin Franklin is credited with saying, “Without freedom of thought, there can be no such thing as wisdom; and no such thing as public liberty, without freedom of speech.”Truthfully, the drafter of the Declaration of Independence and Constitution only quoted these words from an article originally published in the London Journal. Nevertheless, the full weight of his conviction fell behind the content. And since her inception, the American psyche has stood beside Franklin in this conviction.The author goes on to suggest, “In those wretched countries where a man cannot call his tongue his own, he can scarce call any Thing else his own. Whoever would overthrow the Liberty of a Nation, must begin by subduing the Freeness of Speech.” SEE ALSO: 673 professors openly oppose teaching ‘America’s constitutional heritage’ Freedom of speech is perpetually under attack, and it always has been.This “Sacred privilege” was threatened in 1720 when Franklin was forced to mask his opinions with a pseudonym and the quotes of another man.Today, free speech is drowned by the bullhorns of the frenzied and the bullheaded.Conservative speakers are routinely barred from campuses on account of public safety concerns. When they are allowed to present, often their speeches are shouted down by an unruly audience or forcibly shut down by violent protests, as with pro-life speaker Kristan Hawkins at Virginia Commonwealth University last month.While I in no way intend to minimize these acts of evil that wish to silence another by any means possible, Americans should be equally wary of the attacks which cut self-governance out at the root.After her barbarous reception at VCU, Kristan Hawkins made her way across the nation to continue her campus speaking tour at UCLA.Despite its reputation, UCLA students were not interested in engaging with this provocative speaker, or her talk entitled “Lies Pro-Choicers Believe.” Rather, they believed that giving attention to viewpoints they disagreed with would provide too much validation for the cause.Remember, “Without freedom of thought, there can be no such thing as wisdom.”Out of more than 31,000 undergraduate students, not a single pro-choice student attended, let alone protested.It makes me wonder about the future fight that will bleed from college campuses across the nation into suburbia and eventually the halls of Congress. Have we collectively retreated from a battle on the open field? Have we entered an arguably more precarious Cold War situation? If so, who will deploy their nukes first? SEE ALSO: Tales from campus: the last primitive professor Though free speech was allowed to reign on UCLA’s campus for this event, freedom of thought has been in steady decline across the campus for several years. When every class reinforces a student’s own woke ideology, meticulously constructed in the first 13 years of state indoctrination, how can freethinkers survive?Americans are in desperate need of wise leaders. Yet, wise leaders need more than a tongue in their mouth. They need nuanced thoughts in their heads.What then? How do we battle this rot that has seeped into the very bones of our nation?We start with ourselves, our own children, our own communities. We start by listening, engaging, and studying. We start by refusing to dismiss out of turn those we disagree with, but instead dismantling their arguments systematically and thoroughly.The deteriorating patient that is our increasingly polarized nation is in need of root cures for root causes. No time for bandaids, we need medicine that strengthens the good, not only weakens the bad.The best time for treatment was yesterday, but the second best is now. So let us begin to right this aching body politic before it rejects its own members and succumbs to the fate of the many enslaved nations before us.Catie Robertson is an intern with the Convention of States Project, a project of Citizens for Self-Government.