Cal Poly College Republicans, in honor of the fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989, constructed a “Free Speech Wall,” to allow anyone to write what they wished in celebration of the beautiful right that is our freedom of speech. Amazing how short of a time ago the fall of the wall really was, isn’t it? It was less than a week before The Little Mermaid debuted in theatres. It was less than a month after the Nintendo Entertainment System and its groundbreaking launch of Super Mario Bros. took the boat overseas to save the U.S. video game industry.
And in that time, what has been accomplished?
Well, let’s start with the “Free Speech Wall.” It’s really easy to demonize the political side opposite from one’s own beliefs. As with so many things, the ones we hear about, the ones we receive press on, are the vocal minority. Let’s not pull any punches here. These are the idiots and the bigots and the other nouns we attribute the fall, or at least struggle, of modern society to. And let’s be frank. There’s reasonable cause for that.
But the more screen time we give to someone we intend to make a mockery of, the more inches of rope we’re allowing ideas that have no place in our world any more, until they are easily perceived as the norm. This skews our world view and plunges us further into a state of depression.
This is why websites such as YouTube have become avenues for cruel bullying; how Twitter of all things, through Gamergate, became a vehicle for the endangerment of the very lives of female game critics.
This is, of course, also why, however noble Cal Poly College Republicans’ cause might have been, it tragically morphed from a celebration of freedom from tyrannical thought control into a celebration of the right to say hateful speech on a variety of matters. I am aware of the transphobic comments on the wall and know plenty of people other than myself who were emotionally pained by them. But what is required now is not further name calling. What is required is that we stand together to make not only Cal Poly but every campus, and in fact every community of any sort, a place where people of any orientation, gender identification, religion, ethnicity, or any host of other things feel safe.
Because what has been done here is reveal the cruel truth so many of us face every single day. Over the coming weeks, as we discuss further the terrorism faced by various parts of the world, let us not use the cruel facts as fodder for our bigotry of race and religion. Let us stand together, because like it or not, this is going to happen again.
Contributor Chris White-Sanborn stands with herself because someone has to. Send her your collegiate news via firstname.lastname@example.org.