Protests erupted on campus of the University of California Berkeley late Wednesday that canceled a scheduled speech by conservative Milo Yiannopoulos, a self-proclaimed “troll” and editor for Breitbart News. The university blamed the violence on a group of 150 masked agitators who came onto campus and interrupted an otherwise non-violent protest.
I worry about “the heckler’s veto” being used to shut down free speech. We live in a country where people of all faiths, politics and ethnic backgrounds should be allowed to freely speak.
What we find is one political party or president uses hate tinged speech to justify hatred versus policy. We’ve all seen it, “unethical and corrupt media,” “she’s sick,” “a senator’s father helped kill a former president,” “an attorney betrayed their staff,” “You’re a Republican, I’m a Democrat, so I can learn nothing from you.” “Screw you,” they say. “No. Screw you first,” we reply.
As a Buddhist, it’s important to understand everyone has a legitimate right to feel and think the way they do. No one is wrong simply because he or she has a different point of view. Factual observations and other evidence may lead either to disagree, but the person always remains honorable.
For example, I listen to far-right and alt-right perspectives. Not so much because I agree with their position, but rather to understand. Our 2016 Presidential candidates accused one another of racism and bigotry so often they forgot about the people. By stating falsehoods, we race-bait. Anti-Muslim, anti-immigrant, anti-women ideas are key tenets of such racist ideology.
Lastly, few, if any, understand that if one person wins an argument, you both lose. This is problem most politicians, including our President, fails to understand. When winning becomes the number one goal, you’ll eventually fail. Need an example? Former “Apprentice” contestant Omarosa Manigault warned all Trump critics they will soon be bowing before him. I will leave it at that.
Lastly, unless you in a country with a dictator, free speech shouldn’t have to hide. Protesters argue hate speech isn’t free speech. Why not? If so, why do free speech protestors have to hide behind masks? And if so, why do many such protests devolve into destruction?
In response To Berkeley protests, one blogger posted:
“President Trump must take action. We must get our colleges back from these radical haters. Any university that accepts federal funds must provide a balanced education. For every leftist professor, there must be a conservative professor. American universities are out of control.”
In the wake of Black Lives Matter movement and other protests, we’ve seen a clamoring for “safe spaces” whereby affected parties can process pain. What we require are spaces by which we can discuss and exchange ideas.
America is a free speech country. However, we really need to relearn the ability to agree to disagree agreeably.