The most important lesson coming out of last weekend’s disturbances at Donald Trump rallies may never be learned.
It appears parents have failed to teach it, and our nation’s institutions — particularly the media — have failed to reinforce it.
That lesson is, simply: People are responsible for their own behavior.
Mr. Trump says some outrageous things, no doubt. And we don’t endorse his occasional exhortations to deal roughly with protesters.
But folks on the far left have gone completely off the rails. Mr. Trump supports a secure southern border. He supports legal immigration and opposes illegal. He suggested a temporary moratorium on Muslim entry to the United States after the savage San Bernardino shootings on trusting co-workers. He wants trade deals that don’t put Americans at a
severe disadvantage and don’t ravage the economy.
These may be strong stances on controversial issues, but he has every right to them — and, frankly, those views are shared by a huge swath of Americans.
Nor are they hateful, racist or bigoted. That’s just nonsense.
But it’s precisely that fiction that is fueling protests such as the one that canceled Trump’s rally in Chicago Friday night.
Moreover the truth is, that was not an innocent organic protest. It was organized and encouraged by radical, often anti-American groups that have deep roots on college campuses. Indeed, in one image on the cable news, a hammer-and-sickle flag was proudly being flown.
Even those protesters whose motivations were pure are hopelessly misguided. Far-left ideology today — which used to promote free speech on campus — today holds that it’s fair game to interrupt, spit on and silence speech with which you disagree.
In fact, Black Lives Matter co-founder Patrisse Cullors said on MSNBC that “any opportunity we have to shut down a Republican convention, we will. We will make sure that our voices are made loud and clear.”
No. Her voice is already loud and clear, appearing on national television; when has yours? What she is calling for is not a louder voice for herself and her compatriots, but to silence others’. That’s very different. And whatever you think of Mr. Trump, that’s as un-American as it gets.
Even Barack Obama cautioned liberals last year, particularly college liberals, to stop trying to silence conservative speech.
“I do think that there have been times on college campuses where I get concerned that the unwillingness to hear other points of view can be as unhealthy on the left as on the right,” Obama told National Public Radio. “Feel free to disagree with somebody, but don’t try to just shut them up.”
And last fall, he said at a high school in Iowa: “The purpose of college is not just to transmit skills; it’s also to widen your horizons. To make you a better citizen. To help you evaluate information. … The way to do that is to create a space where a lot of ideas are presented, and collide, and people are having arguments and people are testing each other’s theories. And over time, people learn from each other because they’re getting out of their own narrow point of view and having a broader point of view.
“That’s what college, in part, is all about.”
Obama even allowed that sometimes his fellow liberals won’t listen to competing points of view, citing “some college campuses where they don’t want to have a guest speaker who is too conservative. Or they don’t want to read a book if it has language that is offensive to African-Americans or somehow sends a demeaning signal toward women.
“I’ve got to tell you, I don’t agree with that either. I don’t agree that you, when you become students at colleges, have to be coddled and protected from different points of view.
“Anybody who comes to speak to you, and you disagree with, you should have an argument with them. But you shouldn’t silence them by saying you can’t come because I’m too sensitive to hear what you have to say.”
Obama got an “Amen!” when he said that. We add our own.
We just wish his friends on the left would add theirs, too.
While we agree with Donald Trump on the pressing issues of the day, we do think he should set a better tone. He has that opportunity going forward, and should exhibit the leadership we need and expect from presidential contenders.
But we also find it interesting that he is not only expected to somehow regulate the conduct of his millions of supporters, but is also in some way responsible for the hysterics, theatrics and pyrotechnics of his opponents. Who else have we ever expected that from? It’s as foolhardy as trying to silence speech you disagree with.
The behavior of Mr. Trump’s opponents is completely exaggerated and disproportionate. And frankly, it’s the stuff of anarchists, not Americans.
And make no mistake about it: They are 100 percent responsible for their behavior.
(c)2016 The Augusta Chronicle (Augusta, Ga.)
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