Op-ed: In light of protests, civil discourse is needed
Nearly two weeks after one of the most divisive elections in American history, it seems as if it will be a long while before the nation’s capital is completely peaceful again. With nearly daily protests since the surprise election of Donald Trump, and protests already planned around inauguration day, unrest seem to be more of the norm now. And AU is no exception, as the university is still feeling the effects of a protest the day after the election where students burned American flags.
While the university administration and others have expressed their outrage with the acts of flag-burning, others, such as AU student and former member of the military, Michael Andersen, in his op-ed piece “The cost of liberty,” have insisted that flag-burning is a form of free speech protected under our country’s Bill of Rights. As he, and President Kerwin, have both pointed out the legality of flag burning as an act of free speech was settled in the 1989 Supreme Court case Texas v. Johnson. While I firmly believe in protesters’ right to free speech, even if that is flag-burning, I also acknowledge that others feel as if this is an outright show of disrespect for the country.
As an admitted Hillary supporter, I was probably equally as upset by the election as those same protesters who burned the American flag, but I am not sure if that is the most productive way to express our fears and disagreement with the upcoming administration’s views. I, too, fear for the future of our country, especially in regard to some of the issues that Americans have fought so hard for for over decades, including the rights of minority groups and, my own passion, the well-being of our environment. I, too, was disgusted with the rhetoric and offensive language that was a part of our president-elect’s daily speech on the campaign trail.
But doesn’t participating in an act that may be equally as offensive to a different group of Americans as the hate-speech that many Hillary supporters condemned make us no better than those who uttered the hate-speech in the first place?
Again, let me reiterate, I am completely supportive of the free speech that we as citizens of this country are so lucky to enjoy, but I think in the heightened emotions and extreme polarization that this election seems to have initiated, I think it is time that we, regardless of which side you are on, make a conscious effort to have more discussions on issues.
For example, environmental issues have always been my passion, and since President-elect Trump has appointed climate-change denier Myron Ebell to oversee the EPA transition, I am fearful for the future of our environment now more than ever. However, instead of despairing about the fate of our environment, I decided to participate in a discussion on renewable energy in America. The panel discussion on 100% renewable energy was held last week at Georgetown University and featured experts on the topics of environmental advocacy, energy efficiency, renewable energy and environmental justice.
While many of the panelists expressed similar fears for the future of the environment, they also expressed hope for different solutions outside of the federal government for curbing the excessive carbon emissions that are dooming our planet to a changing climate. Among those solutions included increased leadership from local and city governments, pushing other countries to step up and even creating an individual commitment to lifestyle changes.
It is discussions like these that act as a place for people to civilly discuss their fears and opinions and give me hope for the future. Whether we like it or not, President-elect Trump is going to be the next president of the United States, and if you fear that the federal government will not address the issue you care about in the way you want, I think we would all be more productive by participating in and learning from events like these. In light of recent events at this university, I hope more AU students consider organizing positive events like these for the issues they care about.
Hayley Cormack is a junior in the School of Professional and Extended Studies.