When I was in seventh grade, my sister had just gotten back from her first Birthright Trip (Birthright being the trip meant for Jewish adolescents to experience the State of Israel). I thought it was the coolest thing in the world she got to go, as I had always heard about the historical significance of the country both in ancient and modern times, having been exposed to it from movies and shows like Ben-Hur and Lawrence of Arabia. As one does when going to a foreign country, she brought me back a shirt, with the Israel Defense Force logos. These are common gifts to get people. Being seventh grade, where gym was mandated and we had to change clothes, it so happened one week my gym shirt I brought in was that very shirt. Now, at the same time, we had a new student who had just immigrated from the West Bank named Mohammed. Even at that age I had a fascination of other cultures, and though his English was limited, I always took the chance to talk about life in Israel and built a friendly camaraderie with Mohammed.
Now, once I put on the IDF shirt for gym that week, the gym teacher pulled me aside and said that I would have to bring in another shirt for the next day as he was worried that the IDF shirt might offend Mohammed, who never indicated anything to that effect. I understand the teacher’s logic, as he was merely thinking of the clash between the IDF and the Palestinian terrorists. Yet I will never forget how I was told by a school teacher representing an institution that I had to take off a shirt my sister bought me from Israel, completely harmless. I have always been a proponent of freedom of expression, and to me wearing a shirt of my choosing that has no offensive meaning or incites violence or hate is freedom of expression, similar to people wearing US military shirts or Italian soccer jerseys. The issue was resolved when I brought it up to the school counselor who came to the conclusion that I did have a right to wear what I wanted so long as nothing was blatantly offensive but to be “sensitive” to Mohammed, with whom I already had a deeper camaraderie with then most other students. Now, I do not wish to write about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, or even the protection of the First Amendment in schools. No, I am writing about the liberalization of contemporary American campus life and the silencing of the right.
Alot changed with the 2016 election. Trump’s angle to be as politically incorrect as possible upset many of the vocal left slanting apologists, with 60% voting for Clinton compared to the 37% who voted for Trump. Admittedly, Trump’s tactic of bringing working man concerns to the forefront in plain speak was successful, as he appealed to their needs in a way traditional career politicians could not. That aside, no one expected Trump’s victory, yet apparently his plain speak strategy worked and he won the election. With the argument of the electoral college being different from the popular vote, the electoral college has been functioning for over two hundred years, and was actually endorsed by Alexander Hamilton (whose bio-musical’s cast booed the vice president when he attended). Yet what happened after Trump won was the start, or rather escalation, of the silencing of the right. Inauguration day saw the streets of DC lined with protesters like never before. While every president is going to have protests against them, senseless vandalism and destruction of private property, such as that Star Bucks window we’ve all seen on TV, sounded out a call across the nation to start protesting the president. Yet let us consider the microclimate of the University of New Haven, as to write about the entire country’s reaction could take several books worth.
After either the election or inauguration (I can’t recall which), the Charger Bulletin, UNH’s official newspaper, published a special edition on the reactions, with the main cover of a campus news source being a girl in tears at the results of the election. While both sides should be represented in a newspaper, that seems to skew the initial perception one has if it is clearly a negative lighted image of the implications of our new president. However, the silencing the right goes far beyond the general campus population’s lack of representation on campus. To me, being a libertarian leaning conservative, I view government programs as being funded by the entire population who pays taxes, myself included. As I pay into the system, I believe I should be able to get just as much out of it as everyone else, regardless of race, gender, sexual orientation. Private institutions can do whatever they please, but it seems unfair that my Puerto Rican friend Thomas who has sinced transferred schools got a higher financial aid package then me just on the basis of his Latino heritage, and Thomas’ family is far better off then me. Yet that aside, it seems that those who don’t feel the need to be apologists for what some consider “underprivileged” groups are being marginalized at UNH, going straight up to the administration. President Kaplan has many times sent out campus wide emails challenging the Trump administration and blatantly putting it plainly that he has a certain agenda. After the executive order that put in place a temporary vetting process from seven foreign countries that many mistakenly called a Muslim bam, President Kaplan addressed the whole campus expressing sympathies which is fine, and also mentioned “You may remember that in November I joined more than 600 college and university presidents from across the country in signing an open letter urging the preservation of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program, the Federal law which allows undocumented children to be educated in U.S. schools through college”.
Now, paying an arm and a leg of funds I do not have to receive my education here is worth it to me as getting a college degree will clearly be beneficial. Yet including this clause in a mostly unrelated email expressed that the highest position of faculty at UNH was supporting and endorsing a leftist agenda at a campus that he many times refers to as “open and diverse for all”. On the topic of diversity, in 2016 the University established the Myatt Center for Diversity and Inclusion. Doing so culminated in the removal of a dining option on campus, of which there have been several student polls expressing that there are not enough choices given the ever growing campus size. Anyways, one of the first programs sponsored by the Myatt Center was funding World Hijab Day at UNH. The World Hijab Day movement has been criticized by prominent Muslim activist Asra Nomani and Maajid Nawaz as contrary to the representation of Muslims in Western culture, as the idea behind it is flawed in promoting the idea that all Muslims must conform to strict observance in wearing hijabs when the majority of Muslim women do not, as there is varying levels of observance as in any religion., as well as “spreading the idea of political Islam (rather than keeping it a personal choice as religion should be in a free society). The Myatt Center sponsored World Hijab Day at UNH by paying for hijabs for any student to come and receive. Upset that the money my $700 student fee was going to a politically skewed event, I reached out to the director Juan Hernandez. Below is the email I wrote him:
Good Afternoon Juan,
I hope this email finds you well. I am reaching out as I am concerned over the Myatt Center's support for World Hijab Day. From my understanding, the Center is funding the purchase of several scarfs for students to wear in support of Muslim students who might face bigotry on campus. With no metric or Clery act reported of acts of exclusion and bigotry towards my Muslim peers at UNH, one must wonder what is the purpose of endorsing an initiative that seems to have a very left slanted agenda behind it.
With the mission to promote inclusion and diversity, I fully understand making our Muslim friends at UNH feel welcomed. Yet I have not seen programming to educate the UNH population about other faiths, such as Hinduism, Christianity, and Judaism. Why has the Center not sponsored programming around Yarmulke Day? I am just concerned that programs like these are reactive to certain vocal groups of students with particular views on politics rather than being proactive to include and educate all through diverse programming.
With very expensive tuition at UNH, institutions like the Myatt Center cost a lot of money to build and run, as I am sure you are aware. As we have no choice in where our tuition goes regarding programs outside of academics, it is deeply concerning to see funds being allocated to a Center that, at least from my perspective, has had programming focused on particular groups rather than all.
Juan responded explaining that the center was in its infancy and they were indeed making efforts to have future programming for other populations on campus, which is great. I was happy that he answered my concerns. However, the next week during my meeting with my supervisor from the Office of Residential Life, he mentioned that the office was notified of my email and that while I was not breaking any rules it was considered inflammatory and to just be careful of tone in future. I still fail to see what was unreasonable or out of line about a paying student bringing up a concern to a University employee about a program that might not be perfect, as Juan concluded his email “Don’t hesitate to continue reaching out and I look forward to continuing this conversation.” I soon came to learn that my email conversation had been reported to the dean of the CJ school (of which I am not in or have any affiliation with), and it had been passed along to many of the faculty. Again, I did not get in any trouble for raising amy concerns of allocation of my funds, but I do not understand why a concerned, non-contentious email was brought to the forefront of upper faculty when they have an entire university to run. In “continuing the conversation”, I asked Juan through email why my actions were made aware to the administration. Three months later and still no response. So with no response, it seems that this action was an attempt to silence me in expressing my own views by “scaring” me about doing this again by reporting this to my places of employment, one of which viewed it as a negative. Perhaps it is that one can interpret that I am going against the establishment, yet I have been a part of programming for the establishment in many positions. Furthermore, does President Kaplan not go against the larger national establishment in emails to the entire school where he condemns the vetting process that is a federal executive order, or very openly opposes the federal government’s decision to pull out of the Paris Climate Accord? We are a school that receives federal funding and enforce federal law, and it seems that many times President Kaplan has made his views against the current administration plain through emails to the entire student body, many of whom support the administration. I only bring this up again now as in the past few days, I have been subject to ridicule by many fellow UNH students I thought were my friends.
Being an Eagle Scout, I attended the 2010 Jamboree, an event that brings together hundreds of thousands of Boy Scouts in one of the biggest gatherings of youth leaders in the country. The Jamboree happens once every four years, and it is customary for the POTUS to make an appearance. This appearance means the world to Scouts, who are reaffirmed by the President that the hard work, service, and leadership that go into scouting are worth it as scouting has certainly proved to yield better leaders of tomorrow, despite the organization's institutional flaws. President Obama was announced to come until the day of the Jamboree mega-event, he cancelled the appearance to appear on The View, which he had been on a few months prior. This large, seldom occurring event where national values and service could have been commended by the POTUS was clearly not as important to President Obama as joking about living with Michelle and daughters in the White House with Whoopi, which could have been easily rescheduled unlike the Jamboree. When his pre recorded address came on, boos resounded across the thousands of scouts present, who had all been shown by the Head of State that fame and press coverage is more important than inspiring and reaffirming leaders who put countless hours into serving the nation. Now, the Jamboree is occurring once again this year, right now as a matter of fact. Still remembering the disappointment at being teased with seeing the POTUS and then cancelled on last minute for a non-crucial event, I shared Trump’s live feed of his Jamboree address with the following comment:
“At least President Trump came to Jamboree...I recall the 2010 Jamboree when Obama was planned to come and speak to the hundreds of thousands of scouts yet cancelled last minute to appear on The View ...just shows how priorities are different for President Trump who knows the value scouting brings to the nation's future”.
Now, to me this post does not mention a blatant support of Trump yet rather showcases that at least a President chose to honor a national tradition of Jamboree appearances. Personally I think his speech was less than inspiring, yet as Woody Allen said, “80% of life is showing up”. While his speech indeed politicized a scouting event, any politician would have and has done the same at the Jamboree. Thousands of young leaders can say they got to see their president live in person, which only a handful of Americans can say. Yet based off that post, here are some of the comments I received:
“Not showing up is much better than what Trump did. Why do you feel the need to justify his actions with a harmless choice Obama made? The two men are not the same and comparing them is just ignorant.”
“You aren't worth the argument. I've already unfriended you because I'm tired of you speaking as if your opinion is fact. The point is, people shouldn't be attacked for having opposing opinions. Lately, this is all I have seen from you. I'm sorry you don't see it, but I'm not going to waste my time proving it to you.”
These comments are from someone who used to be a close friend who I would go to movies with or get food. The fact that I had a different opinion or supported one of the many things the POTUS has done for an organization I put a lot of time into upset me at first. But in thinking about it, there has been a trend for my whole life of having to walk on eggshells to be careful to not offend anyone, and yes anyone. It is to the point of inconvenience, and while it seems institutions I am in aim to quiet me in expressing the idea that everyone should be equal with no advantages, and people should be able to do and express whatever they want within reason, is sickening to me. So, moving forward in the era of the silencing of the right, I would behoove anyone, including what culture calls “snowflakes” to continue expressing their views.
No one is going to stop me from wearing an IDF shirt while SJP’s around the nation incite hate and violence rather than liberating an oppressed people from extremist regimes that do not value the lives of its citizens.
No one is going to stop me bringing up concerns about allocation of MY tuition while I am paying through taxes for programs that in no way could possibly benefit me, such as DACA (this falls in line with the idea of taxation is theft).
No one is going to stop me expressing appreciation to MY president for supporting an organization that has served the country for over a hundred years while it is completely socially acceptable to call the democratically elected leader of our country some of the worst insults in humanity.
Of course Trump is not perfect, as no president is. And of course everyone should be treated equally. Yet in this bubble of the liberal Northeast, it is very easy to feel outspoken as a right leaning educated cisgender White male. As both my Facebook post about the Jamboree as well as my earlier review of Dunkirk (which should be right below this) seems to have cost me friendships, I do not doubt that this editorial will as well. Yet if I have to worry about preserving friendships through questioning expressing my views while it is the norm to object actions of the president and support giving my tax dollars so illegal immigrants can stay here on my dollar, then I have no interest in preserving such friendships. Let us keep on debating using facts and not subjective, cleverly edited Buzzfeed videos or Occupy Democrats logic. Keep on clashing as debate makes a healthy society when everyone, including the right, can speak their mind openly and freely. Let the floodgates open.