It’s come to my attention that whether you’re a die-hard Sanders socialism supporter, a defender of Clinton’s Liberal allegiances, or a rider on the Republican Trump train, we all want to have our opinions heard (and—optimistically—respected). However, if we intend to preserve any value we hold in our FIRST amendment rights, we have to foremost be open (although maybe not always accepting) to all other viewpoints that oppose our own in order to protect it. If you’re facing challenges on your campus, I’ve included a few tips below that I’ve learned from being involved in the battle for freedom of ideas, opinions, and any other form of speech at my university, Cal State Fullerton.
Allow me a brief introduction: my name is Hannah Reams. The photo above is my closest friends and me at Cal State Fullerton. You may have seen us on the Channel 9 News last Spring when a professor by the name of Eric Canin struck a classmate of mine in the face during an Anti-Trump protest. To set the record straight, this professor was not actually marching with the Anti-Trump protestors, who were respectful and maintained their distance from our club the entire time. This professor came out of the library in the middle of our peaceful protesting and began instigating our members by calling us the "Campus Trolls" and "needing of adult supervision." He tripped over a bike rack, we laughed, he punched our peer, and we thought the rest was history. But even though the school fired Canin and video evidence supported his violent behavior, the teacher's union defended his employment at the school and he continues to teach Anthropology part time at CSUF today; as if nothing ever happened.
This was the catalyst for my activism. To be honest I was never particularly conservative, and especially not socially. When people come up to us and ask, I usually say I'm fiscally conservative and socially liberal, but mostly a supporter of freedom and our b-e-a-u-t-i-f-u-l constitution. I don't care what my neighbor does so long as it doesn't harm me or those I love. And I think our constitution does a pretty damn good job of spelling that out. I love my country and I love my rights, so naturally when I witnessed a friend of mine get assaulted by a grown-ass adult in a place of education where we should feel safe to express ourselves without harm, I was more fired up to take action than ever.
So with that said, here is my list of 5 tips I've come up with from my experiences since then that *hopefully* will help you defend your beliefs as a student no matter where your opinion lies on the political spectrum:
1. Kill with kindness.
This is the most important tip. Whether you're a Democrat, Republican, Libertarian, Independent, or something of the sort, someone somewhere is always going to want to put your beliefs down. The classic bully tactic is to discourage others in order to make themselves feel superior. I once had a guy in a pretty awesome Hawaiian button down walk past our club’s table one day. I said, "I like your shirt!" He replied, "Thanks! I hate yours!" I looked down to see my club's red elephant logo on my chest. I had to realize it wasn't a personal attack on my fashion sense, but an inherent disregard for the political party I was supporting that made him lash out at me. Instead of chasing after him and saying some hurtful things back, I just smiled and told him to have a great rest of his day, because at the end of it all, I know that every person recording us will have a video of a Republican giving someone a compliment and handling an insult well, and quite frankly how could that be used against me? This goes for any political party. Prove the other side wrong. Be the bigger person. Defend what is right, and you'll always walk away stronger.
2. Karma's a bitch.
A long time ago during tabling, a guy on his skateboard began yelling at our group, calling us "fascist, racist, homophobic, Nazi mother-" and then proceeded to fly off his skateboard and onto the ground. Now, this just happened to be a literal example of how karma can come back to bite someone in the ass that deserves it, but even if you don't see karma in action right away, knowing that it will take its course makes killing with kindness a lot easier. People who carry the weight of hatred with them move slow. A sound-minded individual knows that being angry about everything all the time doesn't actually perpetuate change. Actions do, and actions are much easier to accomplish when you carry a light load.
3. Don’t accept defeat.
The school system has an agenda. The teacher’s union has an agenda. The student body has an agenda; and guess what, so do you. Why should your message be any less important or prioritized on campus? Fight for an event, a guest speaker, and a protest no matter how controversial it is. Fight for them because there might be other students on campus that agree with you and your cause. Or better yet, fight for them because there are other students out there that haven’t heard your side, your argument, or your perspective. Strength in numbers means everything, especially when you’re in the minority. Just because your movement goes against the mainstream media or agenda on your campus doesn’t mean it shouldn’t be heard.
4. Take time to listen.
If you want the freedom to express your own speech, then take interest in hearing the opposing side too. This is critical when it comes to staying informed and being able to articulate your opinions and counter points in any political conversation. Don’t talk over someone who advocates for the second amendment if you’re on board for gun control. Don’t just shrug off someone who demands pro-choice if you’re an advocate for pro-life. They might shine some light on the subject that you didn’t originally see or give you an idea that will help you support your beliefs even further. We celebrate our freedom of speech because it invites a difference of opinions. Why not embrace the viewpoints of others and be open minded to the possibilities of perspectives and ever-evolving ideologies?
5. Get sleep.
You’re a college student for crying out loud! You’ll also be able to think faster and more clearly with eight hours and a protein-packed breakfast under your belt. (; (Have fun and don’t stress. Stress gives you wrinkles.)