As I type this I am wearing a black t-shirt with RESIST. emblazoned across the front in white lettering. It is indicative of the world we now live in, as well as my constant mood.
I take to writing, as anyone who knows me or reads this site will by now know. My original intention with this website was to practice my reporting skills, and focus less on blog-style writing. Well, that went out the window long before the election. While I do want to practice reporting, and while I do love reporting, something in me needs to vocalize and philosophize--and so I blog.
There are a number of things going through my head regarding the new administration and the direction in which America now heads. There are so many things, I can't keep up. It's exhausting and I'm only one person who also works, reads, and tries to maintain calm and sanity at this crushing time. I wait and look for topics to nudge me, for them to say, "It's time to write." And thus, I write.
Today I contemplate the riot at UC Berkeley that led to the cancellation of a speech by Breitbart News writer Milo Yinnopoulos. It's reasonable that the talk would be cancelled--riots are nothing to wave your hand at. It's the reaction from many people that is getting to me.
A few years ago, a feminist gamer (Anita Sarkeesian) was scheduled to give a speech at a university well north of Salt Lake City, Utah. She eventually cancelled the speech due to constant death threats and a threatened mass shooting similar to that of 1989's Montreal shooting at an engineering school.
Despite multiple threats, the school and local authorities would not forbid guns to be allowed at the lecture due to a 2004 Utah gun law that prohibits universities from "inhibit[ing] or restrict[ing] the possession or use of firearms."
Amid death threats to her own person; amid threats to feminists at large; amid threats of a massacre, Sarkeesian cancelled because she believed continuing the speech would be too unsafe.
I know Utah. I feel confident in saying that if guns had been banned that night, locals would have lost it. "The Second Amendment!" they would have cried. But, despite Sarkeesian cancelling because she felt unsafe, and despite that being an infringement on her First Amendment rights, it was a relatively small ordeal in Utah. In my circle of feminist friends, of course it was a big deal. But statewide, it was small beans.
Compare that to the incident at UC Berkeley. From my liberal feminist let-us-all-work-together-to-prevent-totalitarianism mentality, protesting a writer from a white supremacist fake news publication is a great idea. But, though I understand the historical context of violence and riots (see my blog on the matter), I am pro peaceful resistance, not violence. So, with that in mind, I do not support the violence that erupted at last night's protest.
However, what I keep seeing from my more conservative friends and family members is that the incident was an act of impeding upon First Amendment rights. President Trump himself declared as much, taking to Twitter to threaten a rescinding of federal funds from the university. (Allow me to briefly point out now much of an abuse of power that is--if Obama had threatened Utah State University when Sarkeesian cancelled her speech, oh boy, the conservatives would have flipped their lids.)
It should be noted that UC Berkeley did not sponsor the violence or protest. The university did nothing to infringe on First Amendment rights--the school had planned for the speech to happen. The speech was cancelled for safety reasons.
And let's not forget that the First Amendment also gives us the right to assemble and protest. The fact that the protest turned violent changed the game, but the protesting in and of itself is free speech. A protest that occurs at a speech or lecture is a beautiful portrayal of the rights we are all supposed to have.
Again, I don't favor the violence. I wish the protest had remained peaceful, and that Yiannopoulos had been able to give his talk--even if the idea of him speaking at liberal Berkeley (a school I have applied to for graduate studies in journalism) makes me cringe. I'm allowed to cringe, he's allowed to speak.
The overall point is, our rights shouldn't be selective. When the same people use the Second Amendment to justify endangering a feminist speaker; when the same people declare the Women's March anti-American; when the same people fret about religious liberties in the face of marriage equality, but don't bat an eye at Trump's Muslim Ban; when the same people remark that the freedom of speech is threatened by a university upon a speech being cancelled--that is not freedom. It is hypocrisy and justification in their finest forms.
I understand almost everyone in America right now is on alert--if you're liberal you worry about totalitarianism taking root. If you're conservative you worry about what the liberals are doing, among other things. We are all wounded in some way. I myself have felt a palpable chill coming from the direction of my conservative friends and family. And while I still love them (of course!) I'm not too sure what to do with the new situation.
It shouldn't surprise anyone that my reaction to Trump's rise is to resist. I am the person who, when my high school English teacher had the class stand and do a Nazi-esque salute and recite the prayer from Ayn Rand's Anthem, noped right out of there and stayed seated and silent with my arms folded. It shouldn't surprise anyone, yet I can feel the distance from people.
But our rights shouldn't be selective, so I keep on going despite exhaustion; despite heartache; despite confusion; despite a feeling of loss. For me, there is no other choice. It is my calling to resist; to say what needs to be said; to work, even at the expense of relationships.
To conclude, I hope those reading this will consider what freedoms they consider to be selective. I suspect we all do it at some point or another. How do you do it? And how can you work to truly embrace freedom for all?