By Emily Kulp, Opinions Editor
The First Amendment to our Constitution states, “Congress shall make no law […] abridging the freedom of speech.” These words mean little on paper; what matters are the images that come to mind: throngs of Americans chanting words of dissent, a man standing alone, but unmovable with a cardboard sign, or the ability of the student body of Holy Cross to write what they feel in this very newspaper.
Since Donald Trump was elected President on November 8, 2016, impactful images of our right to freedom of speech have been making headlines almost every day.
On November 9, Americans gathered by the thousands in major cities to demonstrate their opposition to Trump’s election. The day after his inauguration, the annual Women’s March on Washington, along with similar marches in major cities across the country, were attended with perhaps more fervor than usual, due to Trump’s degradation of women throughout his campaign. On February 1, Milo Yiannopoulos, senior editor of ultra-conservative news outlet Breitbart, was unable to speak at the University of California, Berkeley due to violent crowds.
The blanket term “protests” has been used by the media to describe these demonstrations. Merriam-Webster dictionary defines “protest” as “a complaint, objection, or display of unwillingness usually to an idea or a course of action.” In light of the protests against Donald Trump, his policies, and his supporters, it is important to consider carefully this definition, especially the words “display of unwillingness.”
Although I do not condone violence or destruction of property, when news sources displayed early protests after the election, I felt gratitude that Americans can speak their minds no matter what they believe. Yet the repetition and intensification of these protests has become troubling to me. This is not because I believe Americans do not have the right—or the reason—to voice their opinions. It is solely because we must begin to question how long these expressions of opposition will last and to what they will lead.
I believe many protesters are focusing too heavily on putting on a “display of unwillingness.” Protests since the election have been huge displays, from thousands of women posing with poignant signs in Washington to fireworks being hurled at police officers at University of California, Berkeley.
Yet while we can display unwillingness, such exhibitions will never allow us to live in a bubble in which Trump is not our president or his executive orders are reversed.
I believe strongly in our right to express our most passionate opinions, especially when those opinions come at odds with those who run our country. I simply ask that we begin to question what the results of our protesting will be, beyond colorful displays in a history book someday.
As a country, we should always question our actions, especially when they begin to appear repetitious or patterned. After protests followed by protests, what is next for the American people? More protests? Or can we begin to act out our unwillingness instead of putting it on display?
Photograph Credits: North Jersey Archives