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To Silence a Viewpoint Does Not Destroy It

Michael McCullough ’19, Guest Writer

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It’s Friday night in a small Texas town. Everyone has gathered to watch high school boys play underneath the lights. Before kick­off, one woman walks to the fifty­-yard line, microphone in hand, and belts the national anthem. the crowd turns to the north side of the stadium where a flag with fifty stars and thirteen stripes dances in the breeze.

Everyone stands with their hand over their heart looking at this flag. Everyone but one five­-year-­old, blond haired girl who is too excited to stay in one place. She has slipped her mother’s grasp and is now romping around the bleachers. After the song, her father marches straight towards her, grabs her arm, whips her around, stares her in the face and says, “Thousands of young men have died or been through hell and back to protect your freedom, so when that song plays you stand, you look at that flag, and you put your hand over your heart. Do you understand me!” Tears start to flow down her cheeks.

Later, when this girl was sixteen, her family received a letter informing them that their son (her brother) would never return from Vietnam. When she was forty ­five her oldest daughter returned from Afghanistan an amputee with severe post ­traumatic stress disorder. So when she sees Colin Kaepernick kneel during the national anthem she loses her sh*t. To her, it’s a showing of blatant disrespect to all she has lost, to her brother’s death, and her daughter’s hardship. Her family has sacrificed so much to preserve these people’s freedom and in return, they spit in her face for her, Kaepernick kneeling is not politically correct.

Despite the hurt, the rage, the disgust she feels when she sees these athletes kneel before the game, I would ask her to do an incredibly brave and compassionate thing: I would ask her to listen to them, I would ask her to try and understand them. I would ask her to do both of these things before calling for their expulsion from the NFL, before labeling them as tyrants. I would ask her to trust in their humanness, to trust in their intentions being better than simply trying to p*ss her off or make her depressed.

To all those that have been hurt by this image, I ask you to do the same incredibly brave and compassionate thing. I ask you to attempt to understand and engage before you round up the masses, grab the pitchforks, and march to one kid’s dorm room.

When I attended the moving forward event our student senate held, I was disheartened. By in large, that great room became an echo chamber of hate and revenge. Student after student marched up to the microphone and made three main points: this was terrible, our college should not support freedom of speech, and this kid should be expelled. Yet, there was one student that moved me. He was the second person to speak, and he showed tolerance, he showed compassion, and he showed love. He spoke of not driving “white people” away, but of looking to educate and engage in productive dialogue with people that commit such heinous acts of expression. By going against the wave of his peers he showed bravery, and by speaking of tolerance he showed compassion and maturity ­­this was a true act of leadership.

We need more students addressing this situation in a similar fashion, more students looking to engage in productive dialogue with the perpetrators of this hideous image. Silencing someone through coercive punishment does nothing to change their viewpoint, it only shuts them up. That viewpoint will still vote and act in the same way, just in a different group.

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To Silence a Viewpoint Does Not Destroy It