Lauren Southern’s visit to campus on Oct. 25 accomplished exactly what both sides of the campus political argument sought out to do. On the right, they purposely brought in a controversial internet personality whom they were well aware would spark protest outside of the event. Let’s not pretend it’s because she’s someone whom you would have a lot to learn from as an American conservative. Southern dropped out of college after two years of a political science program, so most of the people listening in that room probably had more actual political knowledge than she does. She is also a failed last-place candidate in her local elections and she is a self-produced speaker and author, which means she doesn’t need to have any sort of accreditation to get her word out there. Conservative groups have every right to have a speaker on campus, but their intention was clearly not to bring in someone who would give a stimulating talk.
Now for all of you on the left who protested outside, what did your protesting accomplish? Was the goal to stop the talk or to let people know you were mad? I’m not saying not to protest things, but if you are going to protest, be smart about it. Don’t just show up for the sake of protesting. You know what would have been an awesome protest? Buying out all the tickets and not showing up. Then Southern could have had her free speech, but without an audience. Instead, all that received attention from the media was either angry protesters or the smug faces of people walking into the talk.
None of us like having to protest and none of us like being yelled at, so why do we keep playing those roles? This has become a predictable story. The same thing is happening at campuses across the United States. We all play the same game, despite the fact no one is happy about the results. No one likes the current political climate on either side. I want to ask everyone, on the left and the right, what are you going to do differently? If you are sick of how things are, why do you do the exact same thing over again?
We are all in support of basic freedoms, right? Then we should all understand that we are free to make better choices than those before us. The same way we are free to give speeches, we are free to have conversations. Let’s stop antagonizing one another and simply talk with one another. We may not change other people’s opinions, but at the very least, we can better understand them. Positive change happens through conversation, education, and always by peaceful means. We can be better, all of us. What are you going to do about it?
This letter has been edited for clarity and style.
Mitchell Legrand is a University of Minnesota senior studying Global Studies.