Steve Hilton: Are you ‘triggered’ by the joyless, puritanical, xenophobic authoritarians of the left?

What does Memorial Day bring to mind? Those who have served in the armed forces, for sure – especially when that hallowed group of people includes men and women we have known and loved.

But there's something beyond that – something that touches every single one of us, regardless of personal ties to our military. And that is the cause that people in the military served: America.

As an immigrant to the U.S., I think often about this country that I've joined and what makes it special. I'm constantly trying to learn about it – to absorb the stories of America's founding, its struggles, its character, its triumphs and its faults.

No other country, it seems to me, is at the same time so exuberantly confident and deeply self-critical – and that's a source of incredible strength. That's how you make a union more perfect over time. 

If there's one thing that defines America for me, it's the ideal of freedom – the notion of liberty under the law that underpins everything else. But liberty is not just a question of law. It's a question of behavior too, and it seems as if America today is in danger of losing something incomparably precious: the habit of freedom.

I'm talking about the freedom to think and speak your mind. More and more, I meet people who tell me they are frightened to say what they think, frightened to get into conversations about politics or current events. They are frightened to exercise their freedom.

There once was a time when the left was the champion of freedom. Think back to the 1960s and the fights for women's liberation and civil rights, the incredible explosion of creativity in music and fashion and art.

But we can see now that not all the consequences of these 1960s movements were positive – especially when you look at the social and economic impacts of the breakdown of the family,

Whatever your view of these revolutionary changes, we can all agree that they represented a powerful and heartfelt expression of freedom. And many of those revolutions were driven by young people, who were overwhelmingly on the left. The left was instinctively on the side of freedom.

But look where the left is today. Why are more and more people in America frightened to say what they think, frightened to express themselves and exercise their freedom?

It's not because of President Trump – quite the opposite. People aren't exactly holding back when it comes to expressing opinions about our president.

It's not conservatives, or libertarians, or Republicans who are clamping down on freedom of thought and expression. It's the left. And it's frightening.

Instead of standing for freedom as it once did, the left in America today stands for control. Those on the left are the new Puritans, marching around telling everybody off for the way they behave.

You know what it's like – everyone does. Everyone has experienced it.

You can barely say a word about anything remotely contentious these days without some joyless leftist martinet popping off about your words being unsafe, or triggering or culturally appropriated, or whatever the latest Orwellian epithet is about sexism or racism or some other awful ism or phobia.

Of course, sexism, racism and other forms of discrimination are wrong. But the way you fight those things is through judicious, thoughtful and considered activism. Not the brain-dead mind control tactics of the new Puritans on the left.

And the left today is not just puritanical. It's tyrannical. Left-wingers tell you what you're allowed to think, what you're allowed to do, what you're allowed to say. Not just on university campuses, as has been reported for years now. But in the workplace. In our children's schools. Throughout corporate America.

We hear the whole time from the left that people on the right – President Trump or Brexit supporters in particular – are xenophobic. But I've never heard a Trump or Brexit supporter try to shut down the thought or speech of people who think or speak differently than them – the way that the left does today.

That's what xenophobia means. It's a suspicion of people who are different. The left today cannot countenance anyone or anything that is different. 

This new puritanism of the left is imposed with utmost brutality, in true authoritarian style – something I know well from the way my family was treated in Communist Hungary. If you transgress you are shamed, punished and destroyed.

The left talks endlessly about diversity and then proceeds to crush the most important diversity of all, the diversity that is the foundation of human progress – diversity of thought.

There is no freedom of thought, of speech, of anything on the left these days – only conformity. A miserable, joyless conformity as the new Puritans impose their intolerant, bigoted, narrow-minded worldview on everybody else.

The left’s new Puritans are making sweeping advances through our culture and institutions. They are in the process of taking over the Democratic establishment and imposing their authoritarian ideology on the party that once proudly stood for freedom.

The Puritans will most likely nominate one of their own as their presidential candidate in 2020.

And they will deservedly lose. Because Americans love freedom. They hate being told what to do and how to think. That's why America was founded in the first place. It's why America became the greatest nation in the history of the world. It's what the Americans who served in the armed forces fought for.

Young people especially cherish freedom. They especially hate being told what to do. That's why I'm confident that at some point there will be a revolt against the new Puritans on the left, and against their authoritarianism and intolerance.

So while the Democrats might think their Puritan takeover is good politics today, it will come back and bite them in the end. Because the instinct for freedom is deep and strong in America and the left's authoritarian tide will be turned one day.

We'll be debating this on Sunday at 9 p.m. EDT on “The Next Revolution” with our guests, including Candace Owens. Hope you can join us!

Steve Hilton is host of "The Next Revolution with Steve Hilton" on Fox News Channel and author of the forthcoming book "Positive Populism: Revolutionary Ideas to Rebuild Economic Security, Family and Community in America." Follow him on Twitter @SteveHiltonx.