“Hate chalk” hoax shows lack of political diversity

posted in: Opinion | 0

“I may disagree with what you say, but I will defend to the death your right to say it.” – Voltaire.
Two years ago, in the weeks preceding the 2008 Presidential Election, a Pacific senior within the political science department secretly sprawled a series of derogatory, politics themed messages in sidewalk chalk across campus.  The messages favored neither end of the political spectrum, mostly drawing attention to what were then hot-button issues exemplified in the campaign “slash ads” of the two candidates; such as Barack Obama’s contentious citizen status and John McCain’s over-flaunted “war hero” persona.
The purpose of the messages was not to influence voters, discourage any political ideology or simply rip candidates, but to provide the catalyst for the conscious political debate that was missing at Pacific.  Overall, the plan worked, and after enough time students began to take notice and even respond.  While it may not have revolutionized the political climate on campus, it at least got the ball rolling.
Fast forward to present day, where another group of students have taken the reigns and started their own discussion using the same means.  These students, who chose to speak on the condition of anonymity, are responsible for the “hate chalk” messages that were found scribbled across campus two weeks ago.  These messages, which included “abortion is green,” and “socialism = death of America” weren’t intended to promote intolerance or hate, rather, their purpose was to spark debate and discussion on campus and put an end to Pacific’s general climate of political apathy.
While the overwhelming response was favorable from an ideological perspective, few might note, however, the negative implications from a political standpoint, in particular the sanctity of free speech.  Despite what Joe Lang or other university administrators might say, none of the messages violated First Amendment rights.  In fact, most everybody would be hard-pressed to repeat any of the messages at all, as they were promptly removed early the following morning.
Moreover, the statements weren’t simply “hateful graffiti,” as they were labeled by the various news outlets in the ensuing onslaught of media coverage following the response, but established, although unpopular, beliefs and ideologies shared by millions of Americans.  While the principles behind the messages might have been made out to be extreme, they were really nothing more than the right-wing rhetoric one would hear from conservative pundits such as Glenn Beck, Lars Larson or Rush Limbaugh, not the “bashing” that they were made out to be.
For instance, much of the backlash came against two particular comments that are considered to be anti-gay: “It’s Adam and Eve, not Adam and Steve,” and the Leviticus 20:13 Bible passage.  Both of these are idioms commonly utilized by some on the religious right to discourage homosexuality and gay marriage; definitely not something out of the ordinary for those familiar with the debate.
Here at Pacific, we feverishly promote tolerance, acceptance and open-mindedness towards diversity – except in terms of political ideologies, of course.  It seems as though we do so well to preach the importance of diversity to students, but only as long as it is on the “correct” side of the debate.
Sort of ironic, eh?
As in the Voltaire quote stated above, while we may disagree with the content of the messages, we must recognize that there are two sides to every argument, and no matter how unpopular or even infuriating one side may be, we still have to treat both sides equally.  After all, how would you want to be treated if you were in the minority for something you strongly believed in?
This was certainly not the case.
In terms of political tendencies, students at Pacific tend to fall into the same general left-winged, liberal, progressive, pro-Democrat category.  Not that there is anything wrong with that, but it clearly constricts the scope of diverse opinions available for dialogue to a polished, narrow minimum, leaving the discussion to be little more than one big ego-stroke.
What message are we sending to those who, for one reason or another, might not fall into this particular progressive, college-kid stereotype? Are we to shun them?  Ignore them?  Accept them but only if they keep quiet?  Actions speak louder than words, and Pacific has spoken thunderously:  Stay in line or your opinions are not welcome here.
Maybe we aren’t quite as tolerant of diversity as we thought.


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