Violence Trumps Us All

I think everyone would say that the violence that occurred at Berkeley was horrendous and inexcusable. But what may not be immediately obvious to my progressive and liberal friends is that this incident was very bad for those of us who oppose Trump. 

First, the fact that Yiannopoulous was not able to speak turns a media clown with stupid ideas into a noble champion of free speech — exactly what he was angling for. After all, free speech is free speech. If you deny a forum to the people you disagree with, it’s not like their ideas are going to disappear — they will just retreat into the shadows (see: Trump election). Best to bring bad ideas into the light, the better to expose them. That principle is at the core of both academic values and liberal values.

Second, half of America sees this violence and goes “Well, so much for ‘Love Trumps Hate’.” I know, I know: that makes no sense. A bunch of violent ninja-clad agents provocateurs has nothing in common with the hundreds of thousands of people who are disgusted with Trump precisely because he is a bully who holds himself above truth, ethics and American values. For us, those pink pussy hats seem like a warm and fuzzy reminder that there are still decent people who care about such things.

But many Trumpets have been honestly shocked at our numbers, at the huge counter-reaction to Trump. When they see those pink hats, they don’t see — as I do — families who care about holding onto basic American values: they see symbols of a threatening enemy tribe. And my conservative FB friends’ pages offer evidence that the Berkeley violence has scared them. There are multiple posts from conservatives who, because of this incident, get to associate anti-Trump people with violence and extremism — and thus don’t have to listen to them. They are honestly scared of what “the Left” will do — and some are talking about how glad they are they have so many guns.

They are wrong, of course, to tar such a wide swathe of Americans with that brush. But of course we all do that: associate “the other side” with its worst fringe elements. The more we give into that kind of “us vs. them” thinking, the worse things will get. We need to talk to each other more, not less.

And the first thing those of us who find Trump deplorable need to do is to loudly denounce what happened at Berkeley. So that is what I’m doing here. Because dialogue will be very difficult if we don’t make it clear that kind of behavior doesn’t represent us.