Expecting respect isn’t censorship

by Chance Wellnitz

Last week, I wrote a column discussing the lack of “pro-wall” voices in the coverage of the College Republican’s defaced “Build the Wall” mural on the Washington Avenue Bridge. The articles I read presented two sides: People who oppose Trump’s proposed wall and support with the ensuing defacement of the mural with the words “Stop White Supremacy;” and conversely, people who oppose the wall but defend the College Republican’s freedom of speech. I didn’t know whether the lack of perspectives was an oversight by reporters, or due to the difficulty in gathering sources.

I conceded in that column that I could point out the missing perspective, but I couldn’t provide it. However, I made a critical error: I assumed the intentions of the College Republican’s mural and judged them based on my own speculations.

Several readers took issue with my ending sentence: “While I’m opposed to the suppression of free speech, when you make a statement to provoke a response, you cannot be surprised when you get just that.” One reader even compared it to rape culture, just as the article in the Minnesota Republic did two weeks ago.

I agree that I was wrong in making that statement. I acted irresponsibly by passing judgment on the College Republicans based solely on speculation — especially when I wrote that we hadn’t heard from the group and like-minded students on campus. I began the column by striving for understanding, but ended it by effectively saying, ‘I haven’t heard your perspective on this event. Nevertheless, I’ll judge you anyway.’

I sincerely apologize for that statement and for using this platform to spread ignorance and intolerance, and I’m thankful I receive feedback from readers that force me to reexamine my views.

However, I must say that while I understand the point being made — comparing effaced speech to the silencing that occurs by rape culture is an extremely dangerous connection to make. Sexual assault isn’t something to trivialize and apply to any situation at will. A person must recognize that these two situations are vastly different, and as such, must be examined and dealt with differently. That said, the College Republicans should receive fair and impartial treatment, and that means hearing more from them.

I suggest we start by examining the College Republicans and their President, Madison Faupel, who continuously mock “trigger warnings” and “safe spaces” on their social media accounts. Faupel even tweeted a picture of the other bridge panels, calling it, “24 feet of pure liberal triggering.” None of this justifies vandalism, a point I should have clarified in last week’s column, but it suggests far more awareness on the part of the College Republicans than their official statement — “We find it highly disturbing that someone would vandalize a simple statement such as ‘build the wall’” — would suggest. It also calls into question why College Republicans feel their opinions deserve respect when they don’t respect the opinions of who think differently from them.

That isn’t to say that I’m not sometimes guilty of the same disrespectful attitudes toward those who think differently than I. We could all benefit from a reexamination of how we treat other’s views — especially now. College Republicans say that the wall is just a “policy position” from “[their] party’s nominee,” and not indicative of any racism, xenophobia or anti-immigrant views within their group. However, if they endorse Donald Trump for President and a wall at the U.S.-Mexico border, then they invite others to respectfully ask, ‘Why?’