Berkeley burning and the growing culture of violence

This past week, the University of California Berkeley was to host the controversial speaker Milo Yiannopoulos. The event never took place. Yiannopoulos had to be smuggled off campus by security as the campus was swarmed by a hoard of angry and violent protesters. Windows were destroyed, cars were vandalized, and property was set on fire causing an estimated $100,000 in damages. Numerous students were assaulted and pepper sprayed. Some were Trump supporters, but many simply wanted to hear what Yiannopoulos had to say and were barred from doing so.

While UC Berkeley claims that they did not do anything to try to restrict Yiannopoulos’s talk, this does highlight a disturbing trend in the upscale of violence in today’s political discourse. After Trump’s inauguration, DC suffered a similar fate with riots, assaults and the infamous torching of a Muslim immigrant’s limo. Similar cases of violence occurred in Portland and Chicago. Now, I am not saying that protesting in general is unproductive, or that people should not protest against things that they do not believe in; nor am I denying the violence that has also come from the right. The Seattle shooting at the end of January is a good example, in which a Trump supporter shot a protester. These acts are abhorrent. However, protests that result in violence against innocent people for the sake of advancing a political agenda of the left is equally wrong. It is also hugely counterproductive.

Take the case of Yiannopoulos. While he does have some value in bringing up important talking points and asking difficult questions, there are cases where he is either completely wrong or goes too far. Alone, Yiannopoulos would be nothing like the icon he is today. It is only because of these violent protests, protests that stem from a growing culture that fundamentally rejects the ideas of freedom and freedom of speech that Yiannopoulos is able to flourish. Why? Because the topic is shifted away from the issues of policy to the issues of the protests.

There is no productive dialogue when it comes to punching Trump or Yiannopoulos supporters. There is no exchange of valid criticisms or the corrections of misconceptions. Instead, what happens is the vilification of their political ideology, resulting in the isolation of moderates who may have otherwise come to their side. It results in endless fuel for people like Yiannopoulos to justify even more radical stances, providing a gateway for the very thing they seek to destroy. And what’s more is it results in an increasing climate of civil unrest that threatens to destroy the unity and the fundamental civil rights of our great nation.

I understand that we are all patriots who simply want to make our nation better, so if what the protesters believe is correct, they need only to express their beliefs clearly and proficiently. It will take time and hard work, but violence is no short cut. We are blessed to live in a country where the suppression of other ideas is illegal and in a fair and level playing field, the truth will always win out. As a nation, we must come together to level that playing field by condemning the use of violence in today’s discourse and value the right of free speech and its important role in making America great.

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