Make the Problem Better, Not Worse: How to Protest Through Words, Not Violence

     “Never be afraid to raise your voice for honesty and truth and compassion against injustice and lying and greed. If people all over the world…would do this, it would change the earth.”

William Faulkner

     We are humans, and like all other animals, we have to live to protect ourselves and our loved ones.  Every once in awhile, other people will pose threats against us through their words or actions, and we fight back by leveling down to that of an animal through the use of violence.  What we sometimes take for granted is that we are a more sophisticated animal species, in that we have the ability to speak, which other animals do not possess.  In fact, Douglas Kenrick is author of The rational animal: How evolution made us smarter than we think, in which he discusses how we have the tendency to forget about the power of words and we use violence instead, making the initial problem worse, not better.

    During her training as a political scientist, Erica Chenoweth was taught to assume that the most effective tool for achieving political goals is violence.  She was taught wrong.  Chenoweth and her co-worker Maria Stephan completed a study in which they gathered data on 323 violent and nonviolent political campaigns since 1900.  Apparently, when Chenoweth started out, she was fairly certain that the violent political campaigns would be more likely to accomplish their goals.  But she was wrong.  The shocking results of the study show that nonviolent campaigns have a 53% success rate and only about a 20% rate of complete failure.  Violent campaigns show the opposite outcome, which is that they were only successful 23% of the time, and complete failures about 60% of the time.  Violent campaigns succeeded partially in about 10% of cases, again comparing unfavorably to nonviolent campaigns, which resulted in partial successes over 20% of the time.  Fortunately, according to Chenoweth, when a government is overthrown nonviolently, the new government is more likely to be democratic, and less likely to itself be overthrown, as compared to those that won using guns and bombs.  Nonviolent campaigns receive more participants, especially women and older people, as well as people who do not want to carry the burden of walking around with guns but will communicate government cruelties and take part in boycotts and protests that do not involve violence.

     Mental health is another factor that contributes to violence.  According to a 2011 article called Why Do People Resort To Violence?, by Kathryn Seifert Ph.D., Ted Bundy, a killer permanently etched into American history, was tried and convicted of multiple murders and executed in 1989. He confessed to killing 30 women although he is suspected of killing up to 100.  Bundy had psychological issues and was born into a family where his mother was so young that she and her family convinced him that she was his sister.  Ted’s grandfather was mentally erratic and abusive, and so Ted learned some of his grandfather’s habits.  Ted was exposed to a lot of negativity throughout his life and felt revengeful towards many people, including his girlfriend, to whom he proposed marriage but then dumped her because he was upset with her for breaking up with him in college.  In fact, Ted was so upset that he dropped out of college.  He was able to fool women with his handsome looks for a long time, but eventually, he could no longer control the dark fire within him, and Ted started a murder spree that would last four years, spanning from Washington State to Utah to Florida.  Ted had many emotions spewing inside of him, just waiting to be expressed, but he let them out in the wrong way, and he let his emotions defeat him when he was killed as a result of his crimes.

     As much as it seems as if knives and guns will solve people’s problems and help fighters to gain power, violent fights wind up defeating their assumed purpose.  People on the receiving end of the gunshot will listen, but they will listen to the wrong sound, and as a result, they will fight back, causing the original problem to turn into a bigger conflict.  We have words.  We can speak against what is offending us.  If we just use the gift that we were given, we can come together as a species and make a real change.  Life is too short to dwell on the little problems and even shorter to create bigger ones, and that is what we will do if we engage in violence.  Words are more powerful than a thousand weapons combined, and if we use them, then we can avoid a lot of trouble.

     Of course, even though non-violence is the better way to go for most people, some other people support violence, and we need to respect that too.  According to an article called “Antifa Protestor Yvette Felarca Says Violence Against the Far-Right Is ‘Not A Crime,’” by Ian Miles Cheong, Yvette Felarca, the Berkeley area school teacher and militant left-wing protester responsible for organizing the riot at the University of California, Berkeley in February 2017, claims that violence against the far-right is “not a crime.”  She and her compatriots took part in violent protests against the far-right Traditional Worker’s Party, and according to the article, in July 2017, the police charged Yvette Felarca of “assault by means of force likely to inflict great bodily injury, participating in a riot, and inciting a riot.”  Felarca, however, argues that she and her compatriots did not commit a crime, but rather they acted out of self-defense.  The people whom she fought against were Neo-Nazis and were planning on killing them.  Felarca explains that she and her colleagues had no choice but to physically defend themselves and it was therefore not a crime.  The activist made similar statements during her appearance on “Tucker Carlson Tonight,” where she described conservative firebrand Milo Yiannopoulos as a “fascist” and urged others across the United States to organize mass violence against people like Yiannopoulos to shut them down.  Although violence is not helpful in most situations and it does not benefit anyone, it can serve as self-defense, and so people who are against violence have to respect the fact that their beliefs differ from other people’s and understand that they use violence as a form of self-defense against people who make an effort to hurt them.

     It has been said that some people have actually supported or encouraged the use of violence.  It is not that they have supported it, because violence is unjust and does not help anyone or anything.  What is true, however, is that people will not make any efforts to stop the violence from happening and reporting the abuser for fear that it might get worse.  The organization “LoveisRespect” presented an article that discusses people in abusive relationships and why they stay.  The article is broken up into four main reasons, which are “conflicting emotions,” “pressure,” “distrust of adults or authority,” and “reliance on the abusive partner.”  People usually stay in an abusive relationship for fear that if they leave, their partners will abuse them even more.  This is not good; someone needs to speak up soon but for now, no one is speaking up, and so that is why abuse still goes on.

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Anti-Trump But Anti-Immigrant: Why the Words We Use Matter

While at an anti-Trump rally, I stood at the steps of the capitol building of my state, surrounded by other protesters while people took turns speaking to the crowd. At one point a young white woman took the stage and began speaking. Although I do not remember most of what she said, one thing she did say struck me.

“How can we talk about deporting immigrants, or disrespecting immigrants, when they do the jobs that none of us want? Who will be your janitors and garbage men if you make them leave?”

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Mental Illness and Gun Control: Where Do We Draw the Line Between Constitutional Rights and Individuals’ Safety?

America is not a stranger to gun violence as it leads developing countries in the number of gun-related homicides per year. Since one of America’s most horrendous acts of gun violence in its history, the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting in 2012 that killed 20 children and 6 adults, the United States has faced 1,518 mass shootings as of October 2017. On Sunday, November 5, the United States gained another entry in the massacre-at-the-hands-of-a-gunman section of its history books with at least 26 people dead and even more wounded. In the wake of this tragedy, President Donald Trump is calling this event a mental illness issue, rather than an issue of gun control. This raises an interesting point about whether mental illness plays a role in these acts of gun violence and how far the government should go in regulating who is able to obtain guns in this country.

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Corrective Rape: Sexual Violence in the Rainbow Country

Content Warning: *rape, sexual violence, homophobia*

“The term “corrective rape” stems from the prevalence of the crime in South Africa, where it is used to describe rape perpetrated by straight men against lesbian women in order to “correct” or “cure” their “unnatural” sexual orientation”– Roderick Brown, Corrective Rape in South Africa: A Continuing Plight Despite International Human Rights Response

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Destroying Stigmatizing Language: How To Talk About Mental Health

Enter a classroom scene where students are shoving cell phone screens in each other’s faces, frantically whispering, “Check out this video! She’s so crazy” and shouting out, “How about that kid who had a breakdown in the middle of class? What a psycho.” These phrases are so commonly tossed around in social group settings that there’s one person in the scene that is often overlooked: the kid flashing back to three panic attacks he had this morning just at the thought of getting on the school bus that morning. She wonders if she would be ridiculed or labeled as “crazy” for an uncontrollable condition that makes it harder for her to function compared to everyone else. Another teen, that is labeled “weird” or “deranged” for his outbursts of twitching and whispering to himself, is made to feel ashamed of his schizophrenia by the casually cruel way that his peers talk about mental health.

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“Stop trying to make it about race”: How Queer Culture was Co-opted by Whiteness

The flag was changed to include me and my black/POC counterparts to let us know that other queer people see the ugliness in our community. It signifies real unity. It means that the racism one member of the queer community experiences means something to everyone. It means that white LGBTQ+ people will come fight for their queer counterparts at other marches that may not pertain to gay or trans rights explicitly, but still affect our community. If you have an issue with that, you’re a part of the problem. Period. You’d rather not add two shades to a flag than acknowledge a problem in your own community. At least racists in the south will say it with their chests. You’re just a coward.

Continue reading ““Stop trying to make it about race”: How Queer Culture was Co-opted by Whiteness”

A Clarification of Our DACA Statement

Our University’s independent newspaper, The Torch, recently reached out to us to put a statement together regarding the University’s action/inaction in light of the DACA repeal. The statement we sent in was as follows:

“As members of the student body who care so deeply about this school and our peers, we are glad that the university is taking necessary steps in helping undocumented students. We, as an org, are comprised of students of all backgrounds, and we maintain that this diversity is important as it allows for us to work through our different perspectives and lived experiences. We know that our fellow students bring their own experiences to the table, and sometimes those experiences put them at risk. We believe that the University’s efforts are showing the campus community that not only are undocumented students welcome here but that their right to stay will be protected. We know that there is a DACA for Dummies meeting coming up, and we believe that this is a great next step in continuing to educate the campus-wide community about DACA and why it is so important in the lives of people who came to this country as kids and have no recollection of any other home but this one. Lastly, we want to say to any undocumented students on this campus that we see you, we support you, and we will continue to fight for you.”

We understand that in connection with this article, our statement seems flat. For clarification, we are happy that the university is providing options to students who need them. But we also, as always, know their response could have been quicker and taken more of a stance. Time and time again, our university waits too long to say the right thing, and never really takes a hard stand. This is why we sent administration a letter regarding their non-response to the events in Charlottesville, and it is the very same reason that, from the 16th-20th, we will be protesting on campus each day. We truly hope our statement was not tone-deaf. We did not mean to imply that the University’s efforts were perfect, as we know from our own experiences that they seldom, if ever, have been. We have been posting on our personal Instagram page about DACA renewal resources since the repeal was first announced because we stand by DREAMers 100%. We have been posting educational infographics for allies or students who had never even heard of DACA before. We hope our own stance on this issue is extremely clear: We need to provide a space that will protect our undocumented students and will work with them quickly and effectively so as to keep them in the only place they call home.

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