In Response: Notre Dame commencement protesters chose the wrong time and place

Excerpts below are pulled from a Newsworks.org op-ed by Ms. Christine Flowers. The views and opinion that respond to it in this following piece are expressly my personal views.

“…Graduation ceremonies are to celebrate the accomplishments of the many, not accommodate the grievances of the few. In other words, those petulant Fighting Irish need to grow up, settle down, and realize that the world does not revolve around them and their philosophical baggage. If they had a gripe or complaint, they had a variety of different ways to communicate them short of trying to ruin the day for the other 90 percent who just wanted to enjoy their moment in the academic sun.”

Here’s the thing, Ms. Flowers… these students used their commencement as an opportunity to communicate their discontent, an inherent first amendment right of theirs. Just because you don’t like how they did it, doesn’t negate their right to do it. Reducing it to a statement that they need to ‘grow up, settle down, and realize that the world does not resolve around them’ is downright disrespectful. Standing up fro something isn’t childish. Mind you, the act of walking out on the commencement speaker is barely a disruption at all, let alone something that denies ‘the other 90 percent’ their moment of joy and achievement.

“For example, they could have written an op-ed or letter to the editor… But they didn’t want to do that, because that would (1) take some actual intellectual effort and (2) not fulfill the need for flash and glitter, shock, and “aw, aren’t they so brave!””

Well seemingly they let anyone write an op-ed these days. But your misguided assumption that these students just walked out, clapped their hands together and collectively said “well, we did our part, guess its done,” is idiotic. I’d venture to guess that many of these students have written op-eds, letters to the editor. I would venture to guess that some of them even volunteered in politics. Maybe in the coming years we’ll see some of the running for office! But no, you’ve likely (this is an assumption, though I’m going to guess its pretty accurate) seen that these are students of a younger generation, the millennial generation and assumed that they’re lazy and uninterested in making an effort. If that is actually your assumption, I suggest you look up and take notice of the world around you. Millennials aren’t lazy, aren’t unintelligent and aren’t disinterested in the world around them. Maybe even talk to a millennial and realize that you’re utterly misguided.

“I find myself in the minority these days. When I mentioned on my radio show that it was incredibly disrespectful for those presumably Catholic students at a presumably Catholic university to walk out on a man who supports Catholic values and, by the way, happened to be both the American vice president and the former governor of the state in which that presumably Catholic university was located, I got a lot of push back.”

Ever consider that the push back isn’t just because your misguided identity politics ignores the actions of a politician just because he’s Catholic, but because its also ignorant and stupid to assume that the students of Notre Dame are all Catholics. It’s a leading US university, I would venture to say that there are people of ALL faiths at Notre Dame, and dare I say it… atheists too!.(Shhh. No one tell her that even muslims are allowed into Notre Dame!) But I digress, the real issue I have here is your complete disregard for the politics, policies, and actions of Mike Pence, all because he’s Catholic. Look at Pence’s record, it doesn’t look very loving and Catholic; then look at the man he’s attached himself to and the administration they run.

Can you honestly say a good Catholic can identify with this administration? This administration which, just recently, denied letting Sean Spicer (a devout and dedicated Catholic) a chance to meet the Pope, all out of pure spite? I spent 12 years in Catholic school, and have a Catholic school teacher as a mother, this administration does not represent anything remotely Catholic.

There were the people who said that the students had every right to turn their backs on a man who was viewed by many as someone whose entire life had been devoted to violating their civil rights.

And that is a very true statement.

But even if you shared that view, which I most certainly don’t, because I happen to think that Pence exhibits the compassion and consistency demanded of Catholics, you can still find fault with the students’ attempt to make a spectacle of themselves.

Again, reducing the free speech of the students as purely “spectacle” is, in my eyes, more disrespectful. You’re absolutely free to dissent against their actions, certainly. That is your right. But it is their right to walk out, whether you like it or not. The same way you have the right to walk out if a pro-choice speaker or any other type of person you’d disapprove of was on stage. Just because he’s the Vice President doesn’t change their right and privilege to walk out.

If I had spent four or more years at a rigorous institution trying to get a degree, I wouldn’t take kindly to some activists trying to shove their political agendas down my throat on what should be my day of glory.

You really don’t see the irony in that statement? You really don’t see the idiotic double standard you’re attempting to proposition? Surely you’re not that willfully ignorant, right?

No one was stopping those students (and their Stockholm Syndromed parents) from expressing their anger at Mike Pence, or Donald Trump, or whoever else violated their deeply held beliefs.

Funnily enough, that is exactly what you’re trying to do with your op-ed. To write a drivel op-ed such as yours is an attempt to cull others from doing such actions, all because you ‘find them disrespectful’.

But just as the First Amendment allows for time, place, and manner restrictions, so should campuses provide for limitations on the disruption of important milestone events.

Censorship, what a great American value to fight for!

And that’s the problem with Notre Dame. Under the guise of respecting the rights of student protestors, it gave short shrift to the rights of those who just wanted to celebrate the end of one journey and the beginning of another.

No one was denied any rights at the commencement, conflating some students walking out into somehow stealing the joy away from the day is idiotic. Somehow the belief that the actions of the students who walked out is something that shouldn’t have been allowed isn’t just idiotic, but its downright fascist, worse in the context of them walking out on the VP. How willfully unaware are you? How eager are you to quell the voices and actions of the few people whose message you don’t like, because they disrespected the VP?

It should have also had enough respect for its own Catholic character and pushed back against the sort of rhetoric about women’s reproductive rights (spelled “abortion-on-demand”) and LGBTQ rights (spelled “Catholics-are-homophobic”) that fueled so many of the protestors.

So lets get this straight… Pence can say (and do) what he likes and the University should have done more in culling the free speech of their students. All because you’ve somehow conflated the issue of reproductive rights to meaning ‘abortion-on-demand’ (which its not) and LGBTQ rights to ‘Catholics-are-homophobic’ (which no one said). Come on, Ms. Flowers, you can’t have that little of self-respect to believe that, right?

Because when you start engaging in identity politics, you inevitably lose your own identity in the process. And that’s a mortal sin.

Quite literally, that is the stupidest conclusion I have read all week (and I read Trump’s budget proposal). Standing up and fighting for issues isn’t identity politics its called being American, a politically engaged civilian. What I find particularly amusing is your complete lack of self-awareness in calling everything you oppose as ‘identity politics’ yet using your Catholicism to make the claim that you’re somehow the victim in this whole situation. If you don’t want to play identity politics, then speak to the issues and the policies, don’t attack the people who are voicing their opinion.

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