Earlier this week, groups of angry protesters succeeded in shutting down pro-Trump campaign rallies in Chicago, and they caused disturbances in other cities, including Dayton, Ohio. If you've read the rest of this site, you'll know that I'm no Trump supporter, and that I share a lot of the disdain these protesters have for the man. That being said, their actions are part of a trend that isn't anything brand new, but troubling all the same. Basically, the trend goes that if a public figure or guest speaker says something I don't like or that I find offensive, then I try to shut down the entire event in the loudest, most obnoxious way I can, thus preventing that person from delivering his/her message.
No one likes to hear hate speech, and no one should approve of hateful rhetoric. But lest we forget that little thing called the First Amendment, people in this country have a right to say pretty much what we want, and we have a right to disagree with those we find offensive or obnoxious or wrong. To disagree and to debate is a healthy and necessary thing, because it holds haters accountable and lets the truth come out. But to shut that down is both un-American and dangerous.
Let's set aside what Trump himself has said related to the First Amendment, including that he would sue people that made him look bad. This isn't about him or all the lies he tells on a daily basis. This about how we as a culture respond to speech that we don't like or which is clearly hateful. I once saw a video of a Klan rally, and ironically, many of the police manning the crowd were African American. What if those cops had turned against the Klansmen? They might have gotten a lot of sympathy, naturally, but they also would have violated their duty to protect the public, including the racist jerks in the public. They don't get to pick and choose who to protect. The motto is "To Protect and to Serve," not "To Protect and to Serve, Except for the People We Don't Like."
On college campuses in recent years, pro-Israel students and professors have been under constant attack by the anti-Semitic BDS movement (Boycott, Divest, Sanction). When pro-Israel speakers come to make a presentation, they are often met with loud protests by BDS supporters, and all too often, these speakers don't get a chance to speak their mind or to engage students of all sides in a healthy debate. Instead, they are met with shouts of "HATER" and ultimately, they never get the chance to accomplish anything or speak to anyone on any level. It's a real travesty and a tragedy. Aren't we supposed to be better than that?
This has also happened related to other issues. A speaker or celebrity might write an article about immigration or women's rights or LGBTQ issues, and suddenly find themselves the object of protests, or branded as "unsafe." The CEO of Mozilla, for example, was forced from his job because of a personal donation he made that had nothing to do with his business. The founder of Chick-fil-A has been branded as a hater based on his religious-based objection to same-sex marriage (he died in 2014), despite the fact that all customers are treated with respect, regardless of their orientation or religious affiliation.
In this increasingly hysterical society, I think it's time for all of us to step back a little, let people talk and express themselves, and if you don't like what they say, then have your own response ready, in a civilized way. There's enough chaos in the media, so let's just leave it there and use real life to build bridges, to work toward understanding, and to love each other, despite our differences.
Witty; cunning; crafty
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