By Meghan Aslin
How should you react when someone says something controversial with which you disagree?
Recently at a varsity basketball game, I was faced with the question of whether or not private schools have the right to express controversial political and religious opinions in the presence of those who do not attend or choose to affiliate themselves with the school. As I was standing on the out-of-bounds line of the court, ready to participate in the pre-game rituals of reciting the national anthem and saying a quick prayer, the announcer stated, “Today marks the anniversary of the supreme court case, Roe V. Wade. Let us all bow our heads to remember those who were denied the chance to live because of abortion.”
Honestly, at first, I was in shock. I tend to lean left on this issue, but my opposition is not the sole reason for what caused my fists to clench after I processed what had just been said. What baffled and upset me was how he was allowed to express this opinion before a high school basketball game.
We hear so much today about freely using our First Amendment rights, but I’ve been wondering what an appropriate response is when others exercise their First Amendment rights and I disagree with them.
To most, the first thought that comes to mind when expressing one’s beliefs is protesting. That’s not to say that protesting is a worthless cause, however, most forget that letting things go that and tuning out others’ opinions is completely valid too. Listening to someone else does not change your beliefs and morals unless you allow it to. Considering what I have just stated, I also don’t think that it is realistic to assume that people will simply choose to listen or not and move past feelings that they may have. For example, on the campus of the University of California, Berkley in September of 2017, students anxiously awaited the arrival of guest speaker, conservative commentator Ben Shapiro. Police authorities in the area were readily equipped to attempt to control protestors while Shapiro was on campus, proving that the university was used to out of hand protests. The most ironic example was the “Stand Against Hate” rally supporting Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., who was one of the biggest advocates for peaceful protest. Instead of peacefully marching, tear gas was used to stop protesters from beating Trump supporters. The overt consensus from students for protesting was very reasonable — fighting for social justice for themselves, loved ones, or peers. However, their means were hypocritically contradicting their ideals. Injustice is not beaten by violence or disrespect, but instead with controlled and rational emotions and or actions. Certainly, peaceful protesting or simply not attending the speech would have sufficed.
If you don’t agree with a speaker, no one is making you attend their rally. Today, with so much attention placed on the extremists of both sides to any argument, it’s safe to assume that a lot of us forget that silent protesting is a very respectful and valid way to express opinions. Submerging yourself in different perspectives with healthy intentions is a completely different thing than arguing with others around you just for the sake of arguing. Too easily are the two interchanged as the same or confused due to lack of knowledge.
We are extremely lucky to live in America, a country that strives to advocate for every voice. Though often flawed in our attempt, we are much more progressive in terms of our civil liberties than most. When I now replay what was said at the basketball game over in my head, I have come to the realization that it is better to tune it out rather than spending energy getting fired up; after all, I was there to play a basketball game, not protest opinions with which I did not agree.
What I’ve learned is that there are two main ways in which our free speech can manifest. The implication of this, however, is that we are all also allowed to choose not to listen to or agree with what others are saying. Ignorant as this choice may sound, it is our right.
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